Travel Tips: Do’s and Don’t’s for the Long Road
(names have been changed)
After speaking to our sojourners, I just want to leave you with a few tales of caution in case you get desperate for a better future for your children and need to take a long journey away from a dangerous place to a safer location.
First tip: when riding atop a train, among the things not to do is fall asleep or let your child fall asleep. When Marlin told me that she had taken two months to travel from Honduras to Laredo, I knew something was wrong. She related how Gael, her six year old, had fallen asleep and rolled off the top of the train. He rolled over three times, then he hit the ground and a stand of brush stopped him. She immediately climbed down and jumped from the moving train, fearing the worst. But the child barely knew what had happened so fast asleep had he been. A few superficial cuts and a few bruises were the worst of it. A longer delay had kept them in a small Mexican town while he ran a fever for six days. Having no money for medicine, she sat in a park holding him night and day. To see them after clean clothes and a bath, you wouldn’t know that they had suffered through such dire circumstances. Gael begged to run to play on the slide and swings as soon as he had his hair brushed. By the way, I’m not sure how you’re supposed to get any rest on top of a train.
Second tip: do travel when pregnant and hope that the border patrol will call your name like they did for Samanta. Twenty-year-old Samanta of El Salvador had not seen her mother for fifteen years. When she became pregnant, her mother asked her to come to the States, have the baby with her mom’s support. She discussed this with her partner, who agreed, with the idea of coming at a later time after more money had been raised. Samanta’s hopes were just about gone as she sat aboard a bus with single women bound for deportation from Laredo. Suddenly her name was called. She stood and walked forward. A Border Patrol official asked how far along her pregnancy had progressed. Tiny Samanta was very obviously pregnant. Called off the bus, she was given her notice to appear in immigration court and taken to the Laredo bus station. From there, we gave her clothes and other items for the next step of her journey. A phone call at the Catholic Social Services station assured her partner and her mother that she was doing fine.
Third tip: be sure that you hire an honest coyote. Alisa’s trip northward was a little expensive—about nine thousand dollars. When she and Pablito and their group from Honduras made it to Mexico City and a safe house, their coyote abandoned them. He took the money that her family had lent for her trip. In a few days the owners of the house began demanding money for her to stay at the house while waiting for family to send more money. She had to stay on for two weeks until she could get enough money to hire another coyote. Was it worth it? Only time will tell.
The final tip for the adventurous traveler is this: don’t be born in a country like El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala where the society is falling apart, the government is impotent and the criminals, lower, middle and upper class, enjoy impunity for their crimes. Being a woman or a child or a teen or just about anyone without a weapon is dangerous to your health.