It started with a cold wind that turned into a small rain. But then it didn’t stop.
It’s midday in Tijuana, at the border of San Diego, CA, and every single corner is wet. Outside, everyone bundles head to toe in winter clothing… everyone, except the migrants from Central America, sleeping in the Tijuana streets. When their journey began nearly a month ago, they didn’t plan for this inclement weather.
6,135. That’s is the official count of migrants stuck in Tijuana. This, of course, does not include the phantom migrants (those who scattered inside the city before being counted) or the migrants still arriving every day. Even though this city has a long migrant tradition, the Honduran Migrant Caravan caught Tijuana by surprise. The city usually depends on volunteer work from NGOs and churches. But this time, there is not enough food or shelter to help everyone. For this caravan, uncertainty is a constant.
One Honduran migrant, David, is 17 years old. He walks through the dark streets without a coat; shivers take over his body. David traveled through Mexico with his mother Ingrid. Ingrid, aged 34, left Honduras with a dream to enter the United States as a refugee, legally. But reality has changed her plans completely. Asylum paperwork for the United States is going slow, and she needs a Plan B. Her new plan… Tijuana.
This Mexican border town is now a possibility for the lives of these migrants. Ingrid watches job offerings daily, looking in restaurants, convenience stores, and cafeterias. She knows that working in Tijuana is possible and making enough money to rent a small apartment is not a far-off idea. But for now, she has one priority: feeding her son and healing the mighty cough that has taken over his body. Illness was never part of the plan.
Many Hondurans have found shelter at the Casa del Migrante, a religious shelter founded by the Scalabrini congregations. Casa del Migrante provides migrants with food and shelter, without any discrimination due to nationality. Inside the house, many talk and laugh. They listen to music and send messages to their families back in Central America. A prayer before a hot meal boosts their spirits.
It is not just Central Americans staying in the house. The space is shared with Africans escaping the horrors of their own native countries. Most of the Africans keep to themselves, eating in silence without bothering anyone. They are also looking for a better life; their harsh journey can be read through their eyes. Some come from Cameroon, others from Eritrea. They want to tell their story, but fear is a flame that hasn’t yet vanished from their souls. Back in their countries, it’s mayhem.
A recent resident of Casa del Migrante is Edwin from Honduras. Edwin has a great smile, and is always willing to help. Not only that, but Edwin has a gifted voice. A “corrido” singer and songwriter, this proud “catracho” wrote about his journey through Mexico. He sings the tale of how poverty expelled him and others from their land, in search of a better future. Edwin dreams of being a musician so he can help his people with his songs.
The last song he sings for the night is “La Aventura Catracha.” It makes you want to dance. His song is about the odyssey; about what brought him to the frontier. It’s a song of hope, and of the possibilities after the long challenge. And it is also a reminder of his roots.
The hope is, if we talk and sing a little bit more, maybe, just maybe, we can find a warm solution to this cold problem of the world.