¿Dónde están nuestros hijos? ¿Dónde están nuestras hijas?
Where are our sons? Where are our daughters?
Two Honduran women – Elita and Rosa Nelly – well into their 60s are two of the founders of COFAMIPRO (Comite de Familiares de Inmigrantes Desaparecidos de Progreso/Committee of Family Members of Disappeared Migrants of Progreso). It all began here – on a radio program called Sin Fronteras (Without Borders) on Radio Progreso which has since been named Abriendo Fronteras (Opening Borders).
Rain or shine or lightning, no podemos perder (we can’t lose). That is what Elita (name check) says. Every Sunday afternoon from 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. on Radio Progreso.
Aqui se comenzo. Aqui se comenzo este programa. Aqui se comenzo la busqueda. Aqui se comenzo la busqueda de inmigrantes. It all began here. This program began here. The search began here. The search for immigrants began here.
10 caravans since 2xxx from Honduras to Guatemala to El Salvador and on through to Mexico to search for family members – migrants who have disappeared without a word. Los desaparecidos. Disappeared migrants.
Their mission is clear:
Organizase. Unanse. Ponganse su nombre. Y tiranse a la busqueda. Organize yourselves. Name yourself. Unify yourselves. And throw yourself into the search.
They arrive to Mexico sin papeles. Without documents. This last year they completed their 10th caravan deep into Taumaulipas, Mexico. 10 women going city to city – pueblo a pueblo – en busqueda – looking for loved ones who have disappeared even as far north as Rio Bravo. They get off the bus that meets them at the border of Mexico. Distribute flyers with photos of loved ones – hundreds and more photographs. Of course, there are more. There are always more.
For Dona Elita, this is a personal matter. She lost her daughter in December 2004. It had been 5 years since she heard from her daughter. “La unica cosa que me consuele es que aqui la tengo enterrado y se a donde la tengo.” “The only thing that gives me comfort is that I have her buried here and I know where I have her.”
Mira que bonito es cuando llegamos a los albergues. A las iglesias. Y nos reciben alquel monton de migrantes que van de camino. Uno va alegre porque lo mira; trabaja, pero llora a par de ellos de verlos que alegria a verlos a uno.
Elita describes the way the young people run up to the caravan bearing the Honduran flag, so happy to see the caravan. It’s a beautiful thing, she explains. The young people see the flag, they run toward us, and they hug the flag.
Many times we have heard people share, “No one wants to leave their country.” But so many young people don’t see any other options. For many, there is no access to education. There is no access to potable water. There is no consistent access to food. And because of the impunity of the current government, there is no access to social security benefits (social services) , not even for the disappearing middle class.
Rosa Nelly shares: Me dolio en el alma que mi hijo (really, her nephew) tenia que ir por no permanecer a pandillas, por no pertener a mares. It hurt my soul that my son (refers to her nephew as her son) had to leave because he did not belong to a gang.
Many young people leave, Rosa Nelly shares. They leave because they don’t belong to gangs. La juventud se esta llendo por no pertenecer a mares, por no pertenecer a a pandillas. Por no ser esclavos al crimen organizado ni del narcotraficos. Nuestros ninos estan migrando – lo que se dio la enfoga de lo nino – porque no quieren ser panderines del narcotrafico o de crimen organizado. The youth are leaving because they do not belong to xxx, because they don’t want to belong to a gang. For not being a slave to organized crime or narco-traffickers. Our children are migrating – the migrant children that we keep talking about – because they don’t want to be puppets of the narco-traffickers or organized crime.
For many young people, migration seems to be the only option. But we ask ourselves, is this a voluntary migration? Is this a choice? Could this be a forced migration? So many push factors. What choice is there? Entonces se al norte. So they go north.
Por culpa de la migracion yo perdi a mi hija. Because of migration, I lost my daughter. All they want are answers. Struggling for answers.
The question and challenge remains, how can these mothers and grandmothers get access to the detention centers in the U.S. where many of their children are being held without access to contacting their families? Because a person found – even if they’re in detention – is a person found.
At the end of the day, we – an inter-religious delegation of 16 from the U.S. – we are full of chatter. So much to process and digest. By morning, we are quiet and still full. Eating our breakfast of frijoles, tortillas, and salchicha we are satisfied. More than satisfied. Filled and filled again with more than just material food. With what Padre Melo would call pan de vida – bread of life – that can only be experienced in the sharing.
Vivos se fueron. Vivos los queremos. Alive they left. Alive we want them back.