By Sr. Miriam Alicia Garcia Villatoro
Esquipulas is a municipality of Chiquimula, Guatemala. Located near the border of Honduras and El Salvador, this is a town where you can see migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela, Haiti, and other countries passing through. On one occasion, I approached a lady and asked her why families from Honduras emigrated to the United States. She told me Honduras was affected by natural disasters, heavy rains, and landslides, where families commonly lost their properties, crops, and houses.
One day, I brought hosts to be consecrated at the Basilica; while I was waiting for the sacristan to pick them up, a migrant was waiting to be seen by the priest; he shared that he came from Honduras and had emigrated because of violence. The man said he was from a working family, but because of the violence in his country, he did not feel safe there, so he and his family emigrated to Esquipulas. He also said they had arrived at Casa del Migrante, and then they decided to rent a house, and he was looking for work.
On another occasion, I was coming from mass, and a very fearful young migrant approached me and said: “Please buy some water, cookies, or bread for me; I am starving and cannot take it any longer.” While we were buying some bananas, he said that three people needed food, the other young men were waiting under a tree, and they ate the fruit with great hunger.
On another day, a migrant girl approached to buy a coconut. The person selling the coconuts told her that they were one dollar each. The sad girl stared at him and gave him six quetzals, (i.e., quetzals are the currency of Guatemala, named after the national bird of Guatemala, with six equaling approximately 77 cents to the U.S. dollar) which was the actual cost of a coconut, not a dollar. These are just some of the difficult experiences migrants face and one of the reasons they run out of money quickly.
Esquipulas has a house that helps migrants, but it is always overcrowded. As a result, entire families, children, teenagers, and adults are seen on the streets daily; it is a challenging and overwhelming situation.