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The Numbers and Faces of Migration

By Karen Ocampo

“It doesn’t matter the sea,
What matters is this.
Among each other we all belong to the sea,
All of us.”
-Fragment from the poem The Things of the Sea by Richard Blanco

From Donald Trump to Syria, the issue of international migration has worsened. So it is imperative to discuss how this issue will change globally in terms of scale and complexity. Exist several faces and numbers of migration, but as writer Richard Blanco explains,“ all we can emotionally connect.”

Blanco, son of Cuban parents and raised in the United States, continuously addresses his identity as a migrant in his work. Recently he recited a poem at the reopening of the US embassy in Havana, Cuba, which, according to the poet, “evokes the stories of people on both sides of the Florida Straits, separated by the sea, but connected by complex emotional ties.”

Richard Blanco, along with Sandra Cisneros, a Chicana writer, held a talk in Bellas Artes in August. There they brought up this subject numerous times. Later, Blanco shared in private: “Through the years I realized that we all are migrants at some point, but only our names, circumstances and histories changes.”

One million

An estimated one million documented and undocumented Mexicans migrate to the US annually. Guanajuato state has the second highest migration index, according to the National Migration Institute (INM). The border between Mexico and the United States is considered the world’s busiest.

Carlos is a taxi driver who shares his excitement and nostalgic “mojado” story. On the other side, he was a truck driver for a tire company: “We were paid for each tire delivered. We were up bright and early to go out from city to city,” he explains proudly.

For Blanco, people have always been moving to find something better. And according to the INEGI, during the period from 2006 to 2010, 75 of 100 migrants marked employment opportunities as the reason for their migration, including Carlos.

From down there

Cristofer crossed the border through Chiapas. (The border can also be crossed from Campeche, Tabasco, and Quintana Roo.) He is originally from San Salvador, and you can find him wandering now on the streets of San Miguel. He notes that the period of crossing the border is when the authorities and gangs become more hostile: “Listen madre, they take away our little money in our pockets, and women are taken to stay with them.”


Nonprofit organizations estimate that the annual average of undocumented migrants entering Mexico could be up to 400,000. Because they do not have papers, there is no accurate record.

Despite the four years of publication of the Law of Migration and one year of the Southern Border Program, there is no progress measured on human rights for migrants.

However, there are those who are calling for action, not only to the government but also to the public. Writer Sandra Cisneros shared, “Here in San Miguel, migrants knock on our doors with very difficult stories,” and later commented directly to Blanco: “We are children of migrants … we always have to recognize that.”

Those who are looking for a better tomorrow

According to Expat Insider 2015, Mexico is in second place in the list of countries that foreigners want to stay in. The cheaper cost of living is the reason given by 81 percent of them.

“This search for a better day, a better tomorrow–even those who have come to San Miguel are looking for it. We move looking for a different hope,” says Richard Blanco. In 2010, according to San Miguel en Cifras, 8 percent of the city’s population was foreign.

We all belong to the sea

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), it is estimated that in 2014 there were 214 million international migrants worldwide.

Richard Blanco said: “Globalization has pushed us to be more connected than ever, making it even clearer how what affects us is correlated.” That is reflected in the current immigration crisis in Europe, and many organizations urge us to respond collectively.

Among the best responses was Iceland’s. The government of that country said it could only accept 50 Syrian exiles, but through social networks, within 24 hours, more than 10,000 Icelanders joined to offer a home to anyone in need.

B. Bjorgvinsdottir, the promoter of the initiative in social networks stated: “Refugees will be our future partners, our future friends, our future soul mates, will be our companions, people to whom we can never say, ‘Your life worth less than mine.’”


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