By Alejandro Olayo-Mendez, SJ
People move to other countries for different reasons. They move because of job opportunities, desires to improve their lives, or desires to see the world and expand their horizons. However, there are other times when people are forced to make the choice to move either because of violence or because they cannot find ways to live with dignity in their places of origin. Our current political systems facilitate the movement of some (specially the educated ones and those with money) and block the movement of others (especially the poor and uneducated). This creates a striking paradox: Migration becomes a privilege for some and a stigma for others.
I have been traveling with a group of six Jesuits in Central America and Mexico. We are trying to take a closer look at the realities and challenges of migration in this migration corridor, trying to understand the aspirations, desires, and challenges that Central American have and face as they try to find ways to reach the U.S. Some movies and documentaries (“Sin Nombre”, “La Jaula de Oro”, or “Los Invisibles”) depict the realities of embarking on an irregular migration trajectory (without visas) in search for a better life.
Last night we arrived to a shelter in Southern Mexico. As we were waiting to be shown our accommodations, I engaged in conversation with a migrant. He spoke of his two children and his desire to provide them with a better life, to give them the opportunity of a good education, and to provide them with the things he did not have, He spoke of the difficulties of his marriage, the difficulties of being far away and on the road. But, above all he shared a genuine desire to be a better human being a more committed, just, and loving one. I could have had this conversation at a Parish in any town in the U.S. and nobody would have questioned this man’s desires. Furthermore, he would be encouraged to find ways to make those desires possible. However, for this migrant that is not the case. As he moves through Mexico, he will be discriminated, abused, exposed to multiple dangers, and he will deal with the full force and brutality of border controls. He will have to deal with the label of “illegal”, “undocumented”, “el migrante”. He will carry with him his aspirations and desires for a better life. Ironically, those desires and aspirations will not be validated as for other people in other circumstances.
As I finished my conversation with him, I saw my Jesuit brothers looking at a map painted on one wall at the shelter we are visiting. A dimmed light gave shape to their figures. As I saw them looking at the map I had no doubt that we seek light in the darkness. There is no doubt that the migrant I spoke with was seeking light (a better life) as he entered the darkness of a migration journey through the Mexican Migration Corridor.