The Christmas story is among forced travel, of uncertainty, of a visit a safe spot to stay in a new city.
For Joseph and Mary that safe place was a manger in Bethlehem after learning there was no room for them else anywhere. For most Central Americans that place is La 72, a shelter in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico.
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They because stay there, like Mary and Joseph, there’s no room for them somewhere else. But while Joseph and Mary traveled 70 miles to Joseph&rsquo about;s hometown of Bethlehem to participate a census, these Central Americans are traveling a huge selection of miles; than time for their hometowns rather, they’re fleeing from their website. To return will be a death sentence.
A mural in the shelter in Tenosique, Mexico depicts train routes. The tiny houses denote shelters in La Lecheria, an certain area in Mexico City. Other symbols (a gun, not shown) denote areas where you can find assaults.
are about 100 people residing in the shelter at Christmas
There, fewer than usual significantly, as folks have left to elsewhere celebrate the vacation. The majority is from Honduras, several from El and Guatemala Salvador, which comprise Central America’s Northern Triangle Countries (NTC), countries which are being among the most violent in the global world. A lot of the violence is perpetrated by street gangs that murder, extort, and rape with impunity. Their brutality forces around 400,000 people yearly to flee the NTC into Mexico.
Reminders of what residents faced, and face, in the shelter abound, that is named for the 72 Central Americans murdered in Tamaulipas, Mexico this year 2010. Holiday garland rings a window next to a big map that presents the rail routes people take through Mexico if they ride the freight trains referred to as La Bestia (“The Beast”). The map has symbols onto it. A dollar sign means there’s a charge to board the trains (the amount of money is collected, violently often, by gangs), a red circle denotes danger, a gun means there were robberies and assaults.
The warnings are essential: Around 80 percent of individuals making the trip will undoubtedly be assaulted, and 60 percent of the ladies will be raped. Nearby, a mural lists a number of the massacres which have occurred in Mexico and the mass graves which were found.
Despite the reminders, despite their fears and the risks they face, people do what they are able to to celebrate the vacation, remembering what they left out while longing for something better.
Forty-year-old Alexis Mejia fled Honduras after being threatened by gangs. He left out his pregnant wife, who gave birth to a daughter while he was away. He’s got not had the opportunity to call home often, since it is expensive too.
What they left behind
Alexis spends the majority of his days alone, looking pensive. He smiles occasionally as he discusses what Christmas was like for him in Honduras, but it’s a sad smile. “We’d visit with family, friends,” he says. “We have been used to dancing, being together, likely to church . . . it isn’t a fiesta just, but the right time of spirituality . . . the right time whenever we hope. Above all, this is a right time of reflection and a period to understand about and love God.”
He fled Honduras after being threatened by gangs and is currently hoping to create a life in Mexico. He’s mostly of the shelter residents helping the staff decorate for Christmas, to take his mind off what he&rsquo perhaps; s behind left.
Unlike Joseph in the Bible, who fled along with his pregnant wife, Alexis had to leave his pregnant wife and 10-year-old son behind as the journey is too dangerous. “[My daughter was here born while I was,” he said, adding, “I must stay for Christmas here. No choice is had by me.” If he returned home, he’d most be murdered likely.
We’re all migrants
It’s a few days before Christmas, and two girls kneel on a big little bit of brown paper coloring in figures of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. They’re taking part in a posada, a Mexican Christmas tradition that depicts the complete story of Joseph and Mary’s flight. Written in a single corner of the paper is, “Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were migrants also.”
“It really is what we share in keeping at Christmas,” said Marianna, a long-time volunteer. “It really is when God became man. He was created into violence, no accepted spot to live, poverty—like everyone here.”
Santiago, from Honduras, requires a swing at a piñata while people cheer him on. The 26-year-old is really a known person in the LGBT community, which has its dormitory in the shelter. “I was in the closet in Honduras. I did so not tell anyone. I only came when i acquired here out. It here’s much safer,” he says. Piñatas are hung during every posada (the reenactment of Joseph and Mary’s seek out lodging). The LGBT community’s own posada is really a energetic celebration particularly.
The human spirit
Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt if they learned that Herod had ordered the murder of most male children under 24 months old. Oswaldo fled Honduras when sicarios—hit men hired by drug cartels—tried to kill him and his son. He lifts his shirt showing me the scars on his stomach left by the bullets. He was shot six times and his son four; miraculously, they both survived.
Herod wanted Jesus killed because he saw him as a rival to his power. The cartels wanted Oswaldo and his son killed since they had exposed links between your mayor, police, and drug cartels. “BASICALLY want someone killed, [sicarios] can do it for 1,000 pesos or 500 pesos,” he said. “Or free of charge.”
One night, there is a posada for the men where, following a talk by way of a friar concerning the meaning of Christmas, men tied balloons around their ankles and chased one another round the available room, attempting to pop one another’s balloons. There is plenty of laughter. Later, when I viewed the photos, there is Oswaldo with balloons around his ankle, laughing. Seeing somebody who, despite being shot six times, would chase other men, who’ve horror stories also, trying and laughing to pop their balloons, is further proof that you can’t kill the human spirit.
Five-year-old Gabriel plays with a sparkler through the Noche Buena celebration. His grandparents and parents fled Guatemala after his grandfather was shot six times by sicarios (hit men) because he was attempting to expose corruption in his city.
Winning the lottery
afternoon of Christmas Eve
Three teenagers attained the shelter the, having made their way from Honduras. Like everyone in the shelter virtually, these were fleeing gang violence. Loteria, a casino game much like Bingo, afternoon was started late that, and the teenagers joined it. One of these, Alejandro, won the 1st game he chose and played a Rubik’s Cube as his prize. When he was asked by me how he felt, he smiled and said broadly, “Lucky.”
Two shelter residents sit before a mural that says, “WE HAVE BEEN Humans; WE’VE Dignity; We Deserve Respect.”
After spending twenty years in Indiana working as a landscaper, Manuel was deported to Guatemala. He fled when he “saw something” a gang did. He wished to make contact with his family in Indiana now. “In the U.S., we’d gifts and trees,” he said. “We were as an American family. We were an American family. I’d like these days to put into practice fast because i’m hurt because of it that my children needs me and I’m not there, at the very least to provide them a hug.”
He was hoping in order to enter america legally but, realizing that wasn’t likely, discussed addressing his family in any manner he could back. The risks were known by him involved. “If you see someone leaving with a backpack,” he said, “they’re heading North. Someone leaves, you don’t know what’s gonna eventually them, if they’re gonna get caught or hurt. Killed maybe.”
day I saw Manuel scratching something on the cement with a little rock
One. I leaned set for a closer look. He’d drawn a member of family line. Using one side he’d written “Mexico” and on another, “U.S.A.” Day in the shelter when I looked for him my last, he was found nowhere. I was and asked told he’d left along with his backpack.
Gabriela Acosta attacks a piñata through the children’s posada, December 22. Children take turns hitting the piñata until it brakes and spills out candy. Gabriela traveled with her mother plus they, similar to people at La 72, are from Honduras.
Pierre, a shy 16-year-old, left Honduras when he was threatened by way of a violent gang. “I can’t be in my own country,” he said. “EASILY were, i’d be killed by them.” For him Christmas was “the right time and energy to hope. I’ve hope due to faith.” When he was asked how he may have faith given all he’s faced, he said, “When you have faith in God, you can certainly do anything.” He was traveling through Mexico and said that alone, although he was afraid, “[God] has been me. Even though I alone am, I alone am not necessarily.”
Like the three migrants in the Christmas story, Central Americans, and millions like them round the global world, would like a safe spot to stay in a worldwide world where they’re not wanted. And, like those three migrants, they’ll continue steadily to travel because and strive and hope, really, no choice is had by them. But it’s easy never.
Maria Norma was reluctant to state much about why she and her young daughter had to leave Honduras, saying only it had been due to the gangs. Once we talked, she appeared to be on the verge of crying always. Whenever we were finished, she couldn’t hold and begun to quietly cry back. She was asked by me why. “Because I cannot go back home,” she said.
Header image: Children color figures of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. The phrase written in black on the paper is, “I’d like documents also to reside in Mexico.” The lady in pink writes, “I wish to arrive sound and safe in america with my buddy and my mother.” All photos thanks to Joseph Sorrentino