This short piece was inspired by events featuring the Migrant Caravan. In late November of last year, roughly 7,000 asylum seekers traveled via the Migrant Caravan to Northern Mexico with the hope of securing asylum in the USA. The majority of these migrants are fleeing gang related violence, poverty and domestic abuse in their home countries. However, because of the Trump Administration’s border policies, the vast majority of these people remain congregated in camps near the Tijuana – US border, where they lack adequate health care, food, water and living conditions. Additionally, many of these migrants, primarily women and children, are at an increased risk of abuse and violence while they wait in Tijuana, the city with the highest homicide rate in Mexico.
Although my piece is purely fictional, I wrote it hoping it would bring attention to the incredible hardships these people are facing. I wanted to emphasize that these migrants are just as human as anyone of us and deserve the same basic human rights that we are all lucky to have. Asylum seekers don’t choose to uproot their entire lives on a whim or to take other people’s jobs, they do it out of necessity and fear for their family’s lives.
If you would like to view real time updates of the Migrant Caravan’s journey go to: https://cis.org/Migrant-Caravan-Map
Thanks for reading.
Land of the Dreamers
I look around me and the first thing I see, the main thing I’ve seen for the past days, weeks, months, is dust. It clings to everything and everyone. I feel it travel down my throat, every time I take a hot, dry, raspy breath. It hasn’t just affected me though. I hear coughing sounds all around me, filling up the air. My surroundings are also filled with high pitched screams and wails coming from babies and toddlers, sounds that remind me of my life back in Honduras. Back home, our little casita was always filled with my younger cousins and siblings, my tíos and tías, the neighborhood kids; people were always coming in and out. There was never a moment of perfect silence, never a moment to simply stop and close one’s eyes and listen to absolutely nothing. No, I instead learned to find respite in the midst of all the commotion, sounds, bodies of people…the remaining memories I have are all bursting with color, vividness and the feeling of love. They’re what have kept me going these past few months, and I suspect they are also treasured by mamá and the little ones who after growing up with so much love, don’t know what it means to live without it.
I’m not sure love exists in this new place. Or rather, I’m sure it does but I don’t think that Los Americanos have ever been taught how to love. It’s strange how life works out. Over the course of our journey we’ve passed through San Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, all places which reminded me of home, where I could hear our language, hear our songs, smell our food, and still sense the love and support of our little home. It’s hard to not want to stay there. But, mamá has told us to look ahead to Los Estados Unidos and not give up. She’s told us stories about the land where all dreams come true, and I agree that it seems like the perfect place for a group of dreamers like ourselves.
We haven’t stopped walking for three months now. Some days it seems like our life in Honduras was a completely different life. I miss waking up to the smell of Señora Reno’s freshly baked corn tortillas drifting in through our little window from her house down the street. I miss the blue and white hammock I’d lie in on sunny afternoons, with Lucy and Anna both in my lap. I miss Diana and Paula and all those beautiful afternoons we spent running around after school; sitting down under the big mango tree, laughing and telling each other stories; fully believing we were going to have our whole lives together and nothing was ever going to change.
But I don’t miss the deafening sounds of bullets being shot and bouncing off the same streets we’d walked across during the day. I don’t miss the sound of store windows shattering in the night and the dogs barking in response. I don’t miss the constricting feeling I would get as I walked by yet another house where wailing and crying could be heard coming from inside. No matter how many new sights I see during our journey on our migrant caravan I can’t forget the look on my tía Alba’s hollow, sunken face when my cousin Diego died.
A few days afterwards, mamá brought me and my two sisters close together. She held us in her soft, warm arms and brought her voice down to a soft yet serious tone. She took a deep breath and said what I think we all already knew.
“Mis amores, Honduras is not safe for us anymore”.
That’s why we’re in Tijuana right now, 3652 kilometers away from home. Mamá believes that in America we’ll be safe, we’ll be able to restart our lives and everything will be okay, just like that. I believed her all those months we spent marching across the stifling hot desert. I focused on those dreams whenever my blistered feet would sting so much I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep walking. Whenever my back started to ache from carrying Lucy’s weight, I envisioned the warm welcome all of us would get as soon as we reached Los Estados Unidos. But now, whenever mamá gets in one of her dreamy states and starts telling us about the joy and beauty in America, I am no longer filled with hope. Now, I can only see the tall, rusty, barbed fence put up by Los Americanos to keep my family and me out. I can no longer close my eyes without remembering how my eyes stung, how my throat dried out and closed up, the panicked screams that went up in the air when Los Americanos threw their poisonous gas at our peaceful, hopeful, sleeping camp.
I’ve stopped believing that we’ll ever make it to the land of the dreamers. Not because we won’t reach Los Estados Unidos but because I no longer dream about living there, in a place where hatred lives in the place of love.