Globe, Latin America, Uncategorized, United Kingdom

Guatemalan migrants: migrate to the US or die trying

A video taken by a witness during the exact moment a migrant was shot dead by a Border Patrol agent has gone viral. It is an example of the daily dangers migrants have to go through when trying to enter the United States.


Maitte Marrero Canda


Her name was Claudia Patricia Gómez, she was from Guatemala (from the town of San Juan Ostuncalco, in Quetzaltenango) and she was murdered one month ago. Her death hit headlines amid voices in the United States and Guatemala who demanded justice for this 20-year-old girl. But this justice has not yet been seen, nor is it spoken about.

Paradoxically, she had already crossed the border, but was killed during an operation against a report of suspicious activity in Laredo, Texas, according to police reports. What did not transpire then is that San Juan Ostuncalco, which is 220 kilometres to the northwest of this city, is home to hundreds of missing immigrants.

The mixture of pain and anger that the parents of Claudia Patricia felt, can be seen in the families of two other young people who also lost their lives this year.

The most recent death is Marvin García Cabrera, 23 years old, from the small town of Agua Tibia, who died whist crossing the Rio Bravo.

Israel García confirmed that they are waiting for the body of her son so that they can begin making funeral arrangements, although they don’t know when this will be. “We pray to God for our son and are waiting here to bury him”, she told the local press.

Another victim is Darwin Ovidio Vásquez Romero, from the area of La Montañita, in the small town of Los Morales, who died under the same circumstances.

According to Juan Aguilar, mayor of San Juan Ostuncalco, out of the 78 million inhabitants around 15 million have emigrated to the United States. Many of them have family there who send for them, he says.

However, the reasons go further and include a set of factors such as extreme poverty, violence and inequality, analysts warn.

As Juan Carlos Lemus says “The options are: poverty, death or prison. The need to migrate has to do with life, with death, with routine and with the emptiness of each person who leaves”.

“But poverty is not optional, it is imposed. People are pushed by the Guatemalan State. Some migrants, before becoming migrants, tried to set up a business, selling tortillas, a small stall, but they ended up working for gangs. The government has abandoned them”, he affirms.

“The three million Guatemalan migrants in the United States didn’t go looking for the American dream, they fled the Guatemalan hell. A hell created by the United States because they invaded us first. In Central America, they provoked and financed wars and that created a lot of misery”, Lemus emphasises.

In Guatemala, the words poverty, death and exclusion, do not mean much anymore. “Unearthing their meaning requires an intellectual effort. What I mean to say is that they no longer shock us because they are the norm. Our daily bread is poverty, exclusion and death, biased political jargon”, he warns.

In this game between seeking a better life or death, there are some who survive and are deported back to Guatemala.

According to figures from the International Organisation for Migration, during the first trimester in 2018 there was a 48% increase in the number of people who returned from Mexico and the United States. The organisation confirmed that the country reached 23,318 cases, compared with 15,760 cases for the same period in 2017.

Upon their return to Guatemala, many try again because the same problems exist; lack of employment and opportunities to be able to live a dignified life. Although in May, the United States government took extreme measures with regards to its zero-tolerance policy where more than 400 Guatemalan children were separated from their parents. Yet this does not prevent them from starting their journey again, or even, from sending their children alone. (PL)

(Translated by Ashley Çaylakli – Email: – Photos: Pixabay

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