The Shattered Lives of Asphyxiated Migrant Families | The migrant crisis
A relative of Wilmer Tulul cries in his home in the village of Tzucubal, Guatemala. Melvin Guachiac and his cousin Wilmer, both 13, are among the migrants who died in a trailer.
The last time Melvin spoke with his mother in Guatemala was a few days ago, it was to tell him that he was “on the other side”, in Texas, on this coveted land in the United States, where he died of asphyxiation and dehydration for a few hours later with 52 other migrants in a truck overheated by the sun.
The 13-year-old boy was expected by his father Casimiro in Houston, where he has been working for a year after leaving their hometown of Tzucubal, in an Indigenous-inhabited area some 100 miles west of Houston. the Guatemalan capital.
However, the phone call from the authorities to announce the tragedy put an end to the American dream.
On Monday night, a city worker in San Antonio, Texas heard a call for help near a road where he was working and cracked open the rear door of a heavy truck trailer: of the 64 occupants of the truck, 48 had already died. The remaining 16 were taken to nearby hospitals, where five of them died.
Experts say the temperature may have risen to 65° C inside the truck.
Of the 53 victims, 27 were from Mexico, 14 from Honduras, seven from Guatemala and two from El Salvador, according to US authorities. An eighth Guatemalan is among the victims yet to be identified, according to the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry.
Melvin Guachiac was traveling with his 14-year-old cousin Wilmer Tulul, who also from the village of Tzucubal, where the concrete houses signal the envied status of those who receive money from relatives in the United States.
The young man had big dreams: to have a bright future, to get out of poverty, to study, to help his parents […] and his six-year-old brother, laments Maria Guachiac, a cousin.
While awaiting the repatriation of the bodies, the bereaved families improvise altars with the photos of the disappeared in the houses. On one wall, the portrait of Wilmer wearing a Batman t-shirt.
Neighbors and relatives come to offer their condolences in low-voiced conversations, interrupted by the tears and lamentations of close relatives. Women in traditional dress bring food for visitors and for families.
Wilmer thought he would only stay two years in the United States, the time to help with the construction of a house, before returning to the village. His maternal grandfather Juan Tepaz, 63, cannot contain his sobs.
“If we had money, there would be no need to leave. But you have to fight, until you lose your life, as in this case.
— Antonio Sipac, 62, a neighbor whose two of ten children live in the United States
In Mexico, residents of a mountain village look at photos of three of their own atop the church altar, praying that teenagers Jair, Yovani and Misael won't be among the 53 migrants who perished inside a sweltering tractor-trailer in Texas.
For now, parents are rereading their latest posts, scrutinizing photos, waiting for a phone call and praying.
Teófilo Valencia, the father of Jair, 19, and Yovani, 16, sat staring at his phone, reading the latest messages he had received from them.
Yolanda Olivares, mother of Yovani and Jair Valencia Olivares, sets up an altar with photos of her missing children outside her home in San Marcos, in the Mexican state of Veracruz, Thursday, June 30, 2022.
Dad, now we're going to San Antonio, Yovani wrote at 11:16 a.m. Monday. Half an hour later, his brother wrote that they were ready to work hard and pay for everything.
A few hours later, they were found in the semi- trailer abandoned next to train tracks on the outskirts of this South Texas town.
The cousins left together on June 21. Yolanda Olivares Ruiz, the brothers' mother, hid Yovani's school certificate in her wallet as ID and put three changes of clothes for each in backpacks along with parents' phone numbers at United States and Mexico.
Hermelinda Monterde Jiménez spent the night before their departure talking with her son Misael. He had asked her to wake him up for his departure, and the mum admits she thought not to. But it was her decision and her own dream, she said.
Their parents got loans, using their house as collateral to cover the cost of crossing $10,000 for each cousin. They paid part in advance and had to pay the rest after the boys arrived safely.
The young people wanted to work, save money and come back to open their own clothing and shoe store. They had given themselves four years.
Last Friday, June 24, they were in Laredo, Texas.
They told their parents that after the weekend they would be taken to their destination in Austin, where a cousin who had made the trip a few months earlier was waiting for them. Last week, 20 residents left the city for the United States.
Yolanda Olivares, the mother of teenagers Yovani and Jair, prays during a candlelight vigil on June 30 that her two sons and their cousin are not among the 53 migrants who perished in an abandoned trailer in Texas. Misael's death has since been confirmed.
On Wednesday, the Mexican consul in San Antonio confirmed that residents of the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz were among the 27 Mexican victims. On Thursday, state attorneys traveled to San Antonio to assist with identifications.
Each year, thousands of illegal immigrants from Central America embark on the road to reach the United States and to escape the violence of criminal gangs and the misery, which has been further accentuated since the pandemic of COVID-19.
Some leave in caravans, these groups of several hundreds or thousands of migrants who travel on foot, others pay – often more than $10,000 – coyotes (smugglers).
Since 2014, approximately 6,430 migrants have died or gone missing en route to the United States, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Smuggling networks are increasingly complex, explains Dolores Paris, a researcher specializing in migration. These are criminal enterprises.
With information from Agence France-Presse, and La Presse canadienne