[Province of América-South] “Despite new immigration controls, the passage of immigrants through the State has not diminished,” said Elisa Blas Alvarado (better known as “Doña Licha”), a 30-year volunteer at “Albergue San Vicente de Paul AC,” in La Venta del Astillero, Jalisco. According to the National Institute of Migration (INM), about 120,000 Central Americans cross each year through Mexico. “Last week an immigrant said that eight emigrants had been kidnapped and he heard they were beaten. Thank God, he was released. Dña Lichaassured that“They are caught and robbed of what little they have. Many times, they arrive sick with flu or stomach illness; with broken down shoes, dirty, bad smelling due to sweating, with dry lips; they arrive in a very depressing state.”
Ten volunteers serve at Saint Vincent’s Shelter, which will celebrate three decades of its foundation by the Vincentian Fathers in July. Each week we receive between 50 and 60 people to rest, eat, recover and to continue on their way. “We offer them a bath, clean clothes, dinner, and a blanket; and some medication, if needed. They can stay for two or three days, but if they are sick or have a job to get money, they are welcome for the necessary time.
The dream route
“Some come directly to the Shelter, others are sent by people from the community who know the work of the Vincentians”. Doña Licha has heard many stories from the protagonists themselves. According to the records, the majority come from Central America: Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. In addition, there has been an increase in people from Chiapas and Veracruz wanting to go to the Northern country.
Why do they go through La Venta del Astillero? “They come by train from Mexico, Chiapas to Guadalajara; from there, they walk by the road or highway and arrive at La Venta. They rest. They can only go by train to Magdalena or La Quemada, where the train stops a little or goes slower. Many try to get on at La Venta, but it is dangerous because the train goes too fast, as in Guadalajara”. Mrs. Licha remembers hearing of a young man from El Salvador who, in the capital of Jalisco, tried to get on the train, fell and the train cut his leg, an unfortunate accident. This story was shared by one of the emigrants who arrived at the shelter and was a friend of the man who fell.
The reasons for people leaving their homeland, family, and culture are poverty, lack of opportunities and insecurity. “Some have had good jobs, but the mafia take their money and if they do not give it, they have been threatened. Last year, around this time, a family passed here. She worked in a jewelry store and her son in a factory. When he did not want to give these people more money, they killed him. After they threatened her, she decided to leave. She was here about a month. Later, she spoke to us from the United States and said she went directly to Migration Offices, she told them her problem, they supported her with a work permit and a scholarship for her two children,” said Mrs. Elisa Blas.
In addition to problems in the country of origin when emigrants cross Mexico they live a Calvary.“They say that when they arrive in Mexico the policemen take their money. If they have ‘good’ tennis shoes, they are stolen. Sometimes they arrive sick with typhoid since they drink water from anywhere; others are hurt because they have been beaten. They flee from so many problems, not only economic but social also.“
What do you need?
What is most needed are tennis shoes, underwear, jackets, and sweaters. The DIF has been assisting us with food and milk. Thank God we have blankets because when they leave, we give it to them. I always ask people if they have tennis shoes that they no longer wear. They wash them and give them to us.
“We have a very nice experience with emigrants. They are worthy of respect. They do not ask you for money, they ask you for work; for a taco or tennis shoes … What they need most is rest, something to eat, and good tennis shoes to continue on their way”.
The hostel is currently composed of two large rooms, an office, a kitchen, space for personal hygiene and a covered terrace. Among our projects is the construction of a kitchen with breakfast space “we are going to start searching for funds”. Financially we do not get much support, only what we get working, making tamales (more than 800 a week) raffles. We have a clothing store that people from the community give us that we sell to raise funds, even if it is only for the electricity. In addition to the support of some benefactors in recent years, we have had help from the DIF and the City of Zapopan.
“These experiences are very satisfactory since God Our Lord gives us the opportunity to serve Him. In San Vicente de Paul hostel, the formation we received from the Vincentian Missionaries, is that serving an immigrant, serving a poor person is to see Jesus Christ in them. If we do not see Jesus Christ in them, we will never serve them with the love they deserve,” concluded Doña Licha.
Summary taken from the website www.hijasdelacaridad.net