December 4, 2018
At Colegio de la Frontera Norte
I’m a documentary film maker. I came to Tijuana because I never expected to see anything like this in my life. All these people came here with nothing. I too am a migrant. I’m from Tijuana but I now live in Los Angeles.
I got into the middle of the caravan to talk with people. Who are they? Why did they come here? I found a lot of fear, a lot of confusion. Something is different over there [in Honduras]. The people in the caravan don’t want anything for themselves. They come for their kids. They might bring four kids and leave four more behind.
The country is pervaded with gang violence, targeting the youth. The gangs are trying to recruit the youth.
The Benito Juarez facility where they were staying was locked up when I got there. I had to sneak in. I didn’t bring any camera with me, I just used my journalistic skills to blend in and get through the gate.
I was shocked. Don’t believe what you’ve heard about them. I wanted to help, to record what they have to say. I saw a lot of confusion in the whole community. Probably some people are pulling the strings.
I found three or four families who told me that the previous night two or three trucks filled with guys with guns came by and told them, you have to leave now. They were wearing face masks. They had no police or military IDs but they looked like cops. During the day, a very large Mexicano, tough guy looking, tried to provoke the migrants into a fight. I’ve seen on social media gangster looking guys trying to recruit other Tijuanesas to drive them out.
I talked to the woman in the photo that was in all the newspapers. [Woman with her children in the Tijuana River basin fleeing tear gas.] She never expected anything like that. She thought her little girl was going to die. While running away, her daughter lost her shoes in the mud of the river bed. With the shock blasts, her daughter was stunned, traumatized. She still won’t go out of her tent. Her mother tries to coax her out into the sunshine, but she’s afraid.
I was at the river on November 25. There were a couple of hundred people there. I saw signs in the camp the night before saying we’re going to cross at five o’clock tomorrow morning. People assembled for breakfast early in the morning. With three thousand people lining up for breakfast, of course there wasn’t enough food. They were waiting around until six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Finally at ten thirty they began to move. They were carrying signs, saying “We don’t hate Trump.” Some were praying. They were happy, thinking that they were going to get in today.
There was not any planned route. They said “We just want to pass peacefully.” They were blocked at the wall. They crossed the Via Rapida [the southbound highway just after passing through Mexican customs, and went over to the main border crossing into the US. Standing there were hundreds of thugs with bricks, rocks, sticks, and clubs, threatening the migrants. They were right alongside the police, including municipal, state and federal police. The police and the thugs were in the same campaign. The migrants saw they couldn’t pass this way so they broke up, looking for a way to cross. They went into the neighborhood, into Colonia Libertad. From there, they found the rail crossing. I didn’t see any migrants throwing anything, but by this time they were angry. On the US side were both Border Patrol agents and military. They used tear gas and rubber bullets. The crowd had been peaceful but wanted to cross. The confrontation at the rail crossing lasted about ten to twenty minutes. I talked to people who where hit by the rubber bullets.
Another group went to the river. They didn’t cross the pedestrian bridge, which was blocked. They just came across the highway. Some hundreds tried to cross there. That confrontation was ten to twenty minutes also.
There have been postings in social media to try to turn the people of Tijuana against the migrants. One was this woman who said the migrants rejected the food they were given because they don’t eat beans. “How can that bitch say that?’ they were asking. We produce beans. We live on beans.
Zona Norte, where the original camp—Benito Juarez Stadium—was located, is dangerous. Moving the migrants to El Barretal was strategic. It’s quite distant—hard to get to the border from there. The idea was to isolate them. But the migrants as a whole are grateful for all that Mexico has done for them. A lot of them will stay in Mexico. Many feel angry, not knowing what’s going on. Nobody’s telling them their rights.
Most of my Tijuana friends now hate the Hondurans. There is a lot of bad information out there on social media.