On August 1st, a caravan of several hundred Central American migrants, family members of disappeared migrants, and migrant rights activists arrived in Mexico City to denounce Mexican authorities for their indifference and lack of action to protect undocumented migrants from organized crime, kidnapping, sexual abuse and murder.
Named “Step by Step for Peace,” this caravan composed of citizens from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Mexico left Guatemala on July 24th, traveling primarily by freight train, known as “la bestia” [the beast], which is the preferred method of transport by many migrants heading to the United States or Canada.
The route through Mexico taken by migrants has increasingly become more dangerous as violence, insecurity and impunity related to the war with Mexican drug cartels escalates. Many migrants become targets of violence as cartels and organized crime seek to expand their operations into human smuggling, extortion, ransom and forced recruitment into the cartels themselves. In August of last year, one of the most feared cartels, Los Zetas, massacred a group of 72 Central and South American migrants in the state of Tamaulipas near the Mexico-US border.
This migrant caravan forms part of a broader and growing social movement within Mexico that is demanding structural and systemic changes to end the violence and impunity caused by the “War on Drugs”. In July, this movement, known as the “Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity” set out an eight point national pact outlining some of the structural causes of violence, including: state corruption, policies of greater militarization, poverty, lack of education and opportunity for youth. The movement also proposed potential plans of action and strategies to find solutions and an end to the violence.
Roughly 200 participants in the caravan arrived to Mexico City’s main square, the Zocalo, and marched to the senate building, demanding audience of legislators and senators. Some chanted to the Mexican President: “Calderón entiende, no somos criminales, somos trabajadores internacionales!” [Calderón, listen! We are not criminals, we are international workers!]
On August 3rd, several days after the arrival of the caravan, the National Institute of Migration (INM), the administrative body that handles migration in Mexico, issued 100 “humanitarian visas” to participants of the caravan as a result of public pressure and protest. International members of the caravan were demanding access and stay in the country so they could look for their missing loved ones.
A Triumph amongst the sadness:
“I now have triumphed in my search because thanks to God I have found my daughter here! . . . We are here precisely to find our children, because they have left Honduras in search of the “American Dream” and they get caught and channeled here [to Mexico]. According to my daughter she wasn’t allowed to continue on forward and so she became stuck here in Mexico City.”– María Munguía, Honduras
“We demand that they respect our children! Because they know that Mexico is only a country of transit , people are only crossing through, but sadly those people are ultimately the ones who suffer kidnappings and our children disappear . . . they are only looking for an “American Dream” but sadly they do not know that that “American Dream” turns out to only be a nightmare . . . We see now that the routes are much more difficult and that the majority of the youth that cross via freight train are the ones who are kidnapped the most and young women are being raped. We demand that the Mexican Authorities protect our children, because we are all human, and we all have a right to our life, people leave their countries to find a better life. In Honduras we don’t have much employment as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”
– Eva Yaneth Ramierez, Honduras.
“It has been more than 8 years since I have seen my son. I don’t know if he is dead or alive, I don’t know where he is . . . The objective of this Caravan is to find our children, whether they are dead or alive . . . We are also asking the people of the United States to help protect our children. They do not go there as thieves or hoodlums, but rather the opposite, to simply find work.”
– Marco Antonio, Honduras
According to the National Commission on Human Rights in Mexico, there were over 20,000 kidnappings or abductions of undocumented migrants this year.
Family members of missing migrants brought placards, signs and photos of their missing loved ones to put face and names to the statistics.
“No more deaths!”
“No human is illegal”
Oscar Armando Canizales
Aristondo de Canizales
“Step by Step to Peace: Peace is the fruit of justice”
"God Bless You. I Love You So Much.
JOSE ARMANDO SALGADO.
Maria Avila (Mother)"