New book describes plight of migrants to the United States
JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – The saying goes âif the walls could talk, what stories they would tellâ.
The earthen and cinder-block edges of the Good Samaritan Refuge remain silent, but the woman who has cared for thousands of cold, hungry and fearful migrants over the past few years is ready to tell their story.
Martha Alicia Esquivel Sanchez hopes the manuscript she just completed will change her mind about migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border and shed light on the suffering they endure along the way.
These are men and women who have watched their friends die before their eyes, children who have learned what it is to go without food for days and mothers who mourn the loss of life. a child. They are also miracles that occur through faith and patience.
âI saw and heard so much that I could sit down and write 500 pages. These are heartbreaking stories that people need to hear, âsaid Esquivel, first a volunteer and, until she couldn’t continue, chief caretaker of one of the largest refuges for migrants in Juarez.
A witness to the history of borders
Sitting in the small living room of a West Juarez house – a few steps forward and you are in the kitchen, three steps to the right and you are on the bed – Esquivel explains that she identifies with the feeling of estrangement and loss of migrants.
As a child, she was raised in an orphanage after her older sister determined she couldn’t protect her. Her life fell apart as an adult after losing a job with the federal government. She sought refuge in a Methodist church in Juarez called the Good Shepherd.
The church at the foot of the mountains operated a community kitchen for children. Esquivel started volunteering there. She cooked, cleaned, served, and talked about the Word of God. Then the migrants started to arrive.
âAt first, there were only Mexican men. They were tired and they were hungry. They were looking for accommodation. We always told them not to trust the coyotes (smugglers) âand instead to trust God, she said.
The community kitchen added sleeping areas and that’s how the Good Samaritan was born. Esquivel settled into a routine during the first eight years of her volunteer work. The massive caravans of migrants from Central America in the fall of 2018 forced volunteers to become miracle workers.
Esquivel remembers the day that put his conscience to the test and planted the idea of ââsharing the stories of migrants with the world.
It was a cold November in 2018 when Pastor Juan Fierro and his wife left to attend religious training in Mexico City. The couple left Esquivel in charge of the refuge.
The pastor had told his guardian not to let more than 40 people in because the refuge was almost full. But migrants kept knocking on the door as the temperatures dropped and the wind blew mercilessly.
Esquivel made a phone call and she got permission to let in until 67. When a new group of 13 adults arrived at the door, she had to tell them to leave because there was no more. of place. The migrants promised they would sleep on the floor, but even the patio was crowded.
âI was about to turn off the lights and looked outside. They were (grouped together) and clinging to one of the flags (at the door), âshe said. And then she saw the children, twenty of them. She prayed, and then she let them all in.
A child approached her, pulled on her skirt and said, âSister, I haven’t eaten for four days. As she began to feed the children, a father came up to her and said, âI haven’t eaten for five years.
These are the stories Esquivel thinks people in the United States and Mexico should hear before they close their hearts to migrants. She hasn’t traveled much north of the border, but Esquivel saw a lot of bigotry in Juarez to know that Mexicans need to be more open-minded as well.
âOnce we took a van full of migrants to (a hospital) and a taxi driver yelled at us and told us to take those filthy (swear words) away. I faced him and said, âDo you know that they volunteered to come and donate blood here for a sick patient? The man was ashamed. He apologized, âshe said.
On other occasions, before the State of Chihuahua and the municipal administration of Mayor Armando Cabada donated security cameras and night patrols for the shelter, neither the migrants nor Esquivel felt completely safe at the Bon Samaritan.
âSometimes trucks would go by and people would shout, ‘We’re going to come in and kill everyone here. All those (expletive) migrants that you have there. We were there too. We could only ask God to protect us, âshe said.
Later, a man in a van with the Juarez airport logo came to the door. The driver said he was bringing nine Cubans, but Esquivel saw no one inside when he opened the vehicle door. âWe almost opened the door, but we didn’t. Maybe he was there to (kipper) our migrants. People come up with all kinds of ways to try to harm other people, âshe said.
Breaking down cultural and linguistic barriers
Over the past three years, Esquivel has developed a knack for comforting migrants who come from Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East with emotional wounds so deep they are reluctant to open up.
She tells the story of having difficulty speaking to an African woman, both of them trying to communicate in broken English. This dialogue was important because she became the first non-Mexican woman to stay at the shelter and Esquivel had to make sure she was safe. Somehow they succeeded. Esquivel discovered that she had run away after doing missionary work.
âWe try to make ourselves understood as best we can. Once, a volunteer came to tell me that a Brazilian woman was insulting him, ârecalls Esquivel. . But the word the woman used – “faca” – referred to the need for a knife to cut vegetables.
Pastor Fierro facilitated a learning space where children from different countries come together for a few hours to read, write and spend time together even though they do not all speak the same language.
Esquivel has worked with women in particular to teach them serenity through weaving. Although in her middle years, she became quite a dressmaker.
âWhatever situation they have been through, I tell them to have faith, that God will help them. They must leave everything in the hands of God, âshe said. âMany come here sad, depressed, desperate. They come with a fever, injured. When it’s cold, that’s when more of them get sick. They left their country several months ago and their money ran out.
Children lost in the desert, friends eaten by jaguars
One of the stories in the manuscript concerns a Latin American couple who were traveling with two friends through the Darien Gap in Panama.
The jungle terrain, the heat and the bugs were pretty harsh, but there were also some wild beasts to avoid and hills to climb. It was on one of those muddy hills that the couple’s two friends – also a couple – slipped and fell. By the time the first couple were able to locate their friends, a jaguar they had avoided hours earlier was feasting on their broken bodies.
Another story tells the story of a mother who left Venezuela with three children and lost her 6-year-old son along the way. The family was led by a smuggler in the desert, but a windstorm lifted the sand and the child was lost.
âShe turned to God. She prayed that she could find him, âEsquivel said. âGod took pity on this woman. [â¦] Later a man heard his story and told him where to find his child, because someone had come to pick him up to help him.
She has heard many stories of migrants seeing their friends die. A young Honduran told him about a multitude trying to cross a river on the Mexico-Guatemala border and witnessing drownings.
Helping every migrant carry their burden and serve or make themselves available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at Good Samaritain has taken a toll on Esquivel, 61. Not long ago, she asked Pastor Fierro on leave. During this three-month respite, she managed to complete her manuscript, âThe Good Samaritan: The Footprints Left by Migrantsâ.
Now she is looking for an editor and she has already asked someone to translate it into English.
âI would like people here and in the United States to read the memories that so many migrants who remained at the Good Samaritan shared with us,â Esquivel said. “It would make them happy.”
Besides the memories, Esquivel said she often receives phone calls from migrants who have traveled to the United States, are working and are in the process of obtaining asylum. They tell him that they are grateful for his help.
Esquivel tells them that it was not she who helped them, but God.
The former guardian of the shelter is looking for help to get her book published. She asks anyone with connections to the publishing industry to call her at (011-52) 656-280-6865.