My name is Jamie, and I’m just inhaling and absorbing every morsel of this trip. What a first day and introduction to the beautiful country of Guatemala! I have visited this country before…but only through the eyes of my son, Chris. It is my turn to look, see, and interpret.
We started our day at CEDEPCA headquarters to learn about their programs, the history of Guatemala, and provide some needed context for the remainder of our trip. This visit also marked one year of the official partnership between CEDEPCA and New Castle Presbytery. We are blessed to walk together with our sisters and brothers in Guatemala.
After departing CEDEPCA, we visited the Casa del Migrante (Migrant House) in Guatemala City, which was the most impactful part of the day for me.
Currently, thousands of Central Americans are fleeing their homelands due to a lack of economic opportunities, climate change, food insecurity issues, gang violence, and extortion. Many are traveling in large caravans by foot, hitchhiking or bus.
Last night, Casa del Migrante, which offers a resting place for those passing through on their journey, housed 800 people on mattresses butted up against each other under a large outdoor tent (5,000 this past week from the large caravan coming from Honduras). They were given a port-a-potty and shower to use, a bit to eat, and a first aid and clean clothes that have been donated by the local community. Information is then provided as to routes they might travel the next day to further their efforts northward, as well as safety warnings. Different areas carry their own variety of associated dangers. A “map” takes them to their next overnight refuge.
The workers at the migrant house have no idea how many people will show up at their facility each night. The social workers stay until all have been tended to.
I was silenced as I walked through the daytime empty tents — each with a plastic sheeted floor and piles of bedrolls. I was trying to imagine the masses of people butted up against each other for one night of respite before they are off, on foot or by bus, toward their perceived northward place of hope & opportunity.
Most of the migrants do not know if their journey will be successful. Many are returned/deported by the airplane load to Guatemala. They are not told where the plane is taking them upon boarding, and when they arrive in Guatemala they are given literally 3 minutes to claim asylum there. If they choose to leave, they must be out of Guatemala within 72 hours. How do you make a life-changing decision for yourself or your family in such a short period of time??!
According to the owners at the migrant house, of those who decide to leave, 70% choose to try again for a northward opportunity and 30% go back to their homeland.
My heart aches for these people who live in such despair. These people, God’s children, are fleeing to stay alive!
So they can grow crops to feed their families or sell to make an income. Climate change has turned arable land into dust. Seeds are blowing away, never taking root, due to a lack of rain.
Prayers for those traveling northward — either on foot or by bus. It is a world we truly know nothing about.