December 4, 2018
Vilma Jesus Iraeta, wife
Rosa Gil Mendoza Maldonado, husband
Hector Yovany Mendoza Iraeta, son
Vilma—Life was difficult for us. We were threatened, both the man and the son. We, the parents, had to intervene. They were pressuring Hector to join the group of extortionists.
We’re from the city of El Progreso, Yoro. I’m 43, Rosa Gil is 35 and Hector is 19. On October16, we heard the news of the caravan and we knew we had to leave.
I did domestic work. It was the only type of work available to me. Rosa Gil worked construction. An immigrant friend returned and had money to build a casita. If you have a high level of training you can be in charge of building a house.Without education, you have no chance. We eat only beans and maize.
Rosa Gil—I also cultivate maize and rice. But now I have no place to farm. Agrarian reform was supposed to give us all land, but the big farmers got everything. The campesinos are told what to raise, and then the big farmers set the price at which they can sell it, so we earn nothing. The campesinos used to have co-operatives, but the big farmers broke these. My father was in a co-operative. He always kept his farm. He grew African palms [oil palms], cacao, coffee. After the reforms, there is no place to farm. That’s why I went into construction. I can lay block, run electricity, plumbing, put in roofs, do metal construction of all sorts. But I can only do this when migrants return with money to build.
We decided to leave because they wanted to put my son in the drug gangs. We thought we’d be better off in the caravan. Going alone is very dangerous. I wanted to defend my son against greater danger. They tried to stop me from leaving, but I came forward and defended my family. [He holds out his arm akimbo in front of his chest.]
We’d walk for six or seven hours a day. Then we’d sleep and try to find the point of the caravan again. Along the way we found people to help us, people who organized support, brought us food, water, medicine, clothes for the women and children.In Guatemala, people helped us readily. [The word here is bastante, meaning in this context either readily or sufficiently.] In Mexico less so. Overall, the trip was bad. The caravan was infiltrated by thieves. We were robbed, assaulted.
I was in trouble because of my political group. I was active with a group on the left. We were harassed both by the military and the police when we protested. I wonder if the government didn’t send groups to destabilize the caravan.
When we tried to cross from Guatemala into Mexico, some people went directly into the river and crossed. The infiltrators did that. The people in the caravan are good people, not like the infiltrators.
We slept on the dirt with the sun and the rain. Thank God we were finally provided with tents. In Mexico City we received a great deal of humanitarian aid, as we did in all of Mexico. We got food, water, medicine. They checked my feet. [He showed me scars on both feet where they had broken open.]
I was amazed at how many children were walking. We came only with our youngest son.We have three more still there. We also have three grandchildren. Our children are worried about us.
We had to abandon our house. I told my neighbor across the street about it. In our area there were lots of gunshots at night. You don’t ask the police for help. If you go to the police, twenty-four hours later, someone will come for you.
We don’t want to go back. Our plan is to wait until our number comes up and to ask for asylum. I talked to an immigration lawyer who came into the camp.
Vilma—He asked for land to cultivate. The rich have grabbed up all the land. After he asked, the police came at six in the morning and took him for twenty-four hours. I thought they were going to kill him. The land he asked for should have been part of the agrarian reform. Through the program, he had a right to this land, but he was denied it.
Rosa Gil—Politically, I was active in the Partido Libre. The government harassed us after the election. Partido Libre was part of an alliance of the parties on the left, like here in Mexico, but here the left won. We have more than eleven political parties in Honduras. The government infiltrated the political campaigns. They photographed us so that after the election they could persecute us. The media is all controlled by the government.
Even before the election, they killed the activists, reporters, and lawyers on the left. This happened both before and after the election. They took pictures of the leaders so they could kill them. This is part of the overall violence in the country. There is no security anywhere in Honduras. The government is so oppressive. You can’t go outside.
All the public services were privatized. If you go to the public hospital, they give you a prescription. Then you have to go to the private pharmacy that is owned by the doctors. This is how they make their money. Electricity is very expensive. We have solar, [geo]thermal, hydro, gas. They manipulate them to make it expensive. Honduras has lots of rivers. They could build dams and then provide electricity to everyone for free. When we protested against the privatization, many activists were killed.
My dream if I can make it to the United States is to get some land. I am enchanted by nature. I hope to work very hard and to have respect to all the laws. I want to send my children to school.