Today we visited a migrant shelter in Ixtepec. First, we met several children who hugged the nun quickly and without a second thought. They played with a tiny puppy, whose name I learned, was “America.” After receiving a grand tour of the establishment, Sidd and Subodh wanted to play soccer with the migrants, so we brought out a ball. Soon, an 11-year old child showed up, and I quickly motioned him in. Shortly thereafter, the many onlookers joined, one by one, until we opted to move toward the soccer field. It was very hot out, and allow me to preface this with a small fun fact: I’ve never played soccer before. However, our team accepted me with open arms, and as our team comprised of four Americans and two migrants, onlookers cheered “USA! USA!” Our goalie was the 11-year old, and he was probably our most valuable player. Eventually, he grew sick of playing goalie and threw me into the goal so he could go play. I blocked a few, but eventually a ball got past me, and it ended my short yet sweet soccer career.
Next, we went to talk to the others near the office. We spoke to a man named Hector, who had traveled from El Salvador with dreams of continuing his photo gallery in the United States. He had been forced out of his gallery in El Salvador, and his family member had been killed. He had walked 22 days with a friend, sometimes not eating for three days at a time. His friend had disappeared, however, and he could not wait for him to show up. He fears his friend is dead. Despite the tragic and unsettling story Hector told, he was friendly and cheerful to us, informing us that he once wrote a song, but blushing in lieu of singing for us. The people around us were cheerful though tired, and they laughed with us.
From there, the women walked into the office to talk to a woman who had been victim to serious violence and sexual assault. I won’t include details, but her choked, trembling voice will haunt me for some time to come. When Dr. Rankin spread her arms, the girl clung to her, refusing to let go as she cried. Again, I am struck with the strength of these people and their desperation to reach safety.
Outside again, I spoke to the migrants a final time. They laughed at my poor Spanish, and I laughed at myself. They called my name as I left, and with an “Adios!” we left.
Keely E. FitzGerald