For Whom Is the Celebration on Migrants Day?
By Jesús Aguado
When Mexico “was Mexico,” Sergio Bautista illegally crossed the border between this country and the United States “10 times.” Later with other migrants, he started the Park of Adventures in San Miguel. In contrast. José Álvaro Pichardo died due to inclement weather in Texas. Both migrants received support from the Institute for Attention to Guanajuatense Migrants and their Families.
The Mexican Network of Migrant Leaders and Associations estimates that Mexicans are the first minority migrants in the United States. There are 11 million people; half of them are illegal. The migration to the neighboring country to the north started at least 150 years ago when the northern employers started recruiting Mexicans to work on the railroad and in agriculture, mining, and industry. On the other hand, the Institute for Attention to Guanajuatense Migrants and their Families observes that just in the United States there are almost one million Guanajuatenses.
In 2010 the statistics from the INEGI (National Institute of Statistics) revealed that Guanajuato was the main “supplier” of migrants to the United States. Just that year, it was estimated that 116,235 people left the state, heading toward “the north.” The second state in the number of immigrants to the United States was Michoacán with 83,642 migrants, and Jalisco occupied the third place with 79,000 people. The state of Mexico registered the migration of 67,595 people and Puebla, 66,773. The Institute for Attention to Guanajuatense Migrants and their Families assured that in 2014 “there are 985 thousand Guanajuatenses, born in Guanajuato, living in the United States. That figure represents an 8.3 percent of the Mexican population.
On December 4, 2000, the United Nations decreed that Migrants Day would be celebrated yearly on December 18. In Mexico, the authorities have focused their efforts to celebrate those persons who, as the UN observes, left the country with the goal of overcoming poverty and having a better life. December is also the month when most Mexican migrants come back to their country to celebrate with their families. And since Guanjuato is the state with the highest number of migrants to the United States, Governor Miguel Márquez Márquez created the IAGM in 2013.
In December 2014, to celebrate the Migrants Day, in the state newspaper Governor Márquez ordered the publication of the Law of Protection and Attention to the Migrant sand their Families of the State of Guanajuato. With that law, applied by the IAMG, the state government guarantees access to health, food, and education to the migrants’ families. The law also contemplates the creation of programs for improving the environment of the migrants´ families. The document included support for the repatriation of bodies of deceased Guanajuatenses as well, “as a duty of the state and local authorities.”
The law also observes that the Institute has the faculty to ask for intervention of the Secretariat of International Affairs request for “clemency” in the cases when Guanajuatenses are condemned to death.
Repatriation of bodies
In San Miguel the cases of body repatriation have been a constant, even before the creation of the IAMG, and the local authorities had to provide the service. Later, a branch of the Secretariat of International Affairs was opened at the city hall and is now in charge of that kind of request. Currently, it is handled in San Miguel by Juan Carlos Mata. The public servant told Atención that in November they worked with state and federal authorities to repatriate the body of a Sanmiguelense who died in North Carolina due to a work accident.
One of the most published cases this year was the repatriation of the body of José Álvaro Pichardo, a young man from the rural community of Lira de Bocas, who illegally went to work in Wimberley, Texas.
Pichardo was born on January 17, 1986, and passed away in Texas after leaving work due to the bad weather. Torrential rains lashed the center of Texas on the weekend of May 23-25, provoking overflow of the Blanco River and wiping out everything in its path: trees, houses, and cars. In one of those cars, Pichardo was traveling home. On Sunday, May 24, at 7pm, there was a post on Facebook from Diana Pichardo that states, “Friends and family, please help us to find my brother-in-law. The last time somebody saw him on the (highway) 166, he was coming to Wimberley with a final destination of Blanco County. He is driving a red 2001 Chevrolet Blazer. If you know something, please call.”
In the rural community called Lira de Bocas, Álvaro’s mother, Alicia Pichardo, commented that on Sunday—that month—her husband, also a migrant in Texas, called her and announced that they could not contact José Álvaro. He also talked about the bad weather. Although they knew he was missing, they were hoping that he could be with some friends in Louisiana. “
José Álvaro was a good son, although he was a little shy and did not have many friends in the United States, commented the mother, who seemed very tranquil. She also remarked that he started going to the United States legally with a working visa when he was 18 years old. Once, his visa expired, he was arrested by immigration officers and deported. He thought of applying for a new visa, but he didn’t think he would ever get one again, so he decided to cross the border illegally 18 months ago. “I remember it because his son was born by that time. When we talked over the phone, he told me that immigration officers tried to catch him on the way, but he got lost and decided to keep going on until he was rescued by some Americans,” commented the mother. He lived in Blanco County, where he worked in construction and placing tiles. “He was working with an American, and he gave him tiles that my son would bring to finish his bathroom. He told me that three weeks ago; that was the last time we talked,” remembered Alicia.
Rubí was José Alvaro’s sister. She showed Atención a photo that he sent her for his mother two weeks ago. In that photo he is wearing a hat and a pink shirt and is holding a beer. “He send that photo and asked Rubi to show it to me so I can see how he had gained weight because he was very skinny when he left,” commented Alicia. That was the last time she saw a photo of her living son.
Finally, on May 29, the authorities informed the family that they had found the dead body of Álvaro inside the Blazer on the banks of the Blanco River. Alvaro’s family received support from the Mexican consulate in Texas for the transfer of the body. The Guanajuato Migrant’s Institute paid for the funeral services. The city hall Department of International Affairs was the liaison between the family and the Migrant’s Institute.
In 2013, Sergio Bautista—a former migrant—opened the Park of Adventures in San Miguel, a space over a canyon behind the Cerros de las Tres Cruces. The park includes seven Tiroleans, a hanging bridge; space for camping and hiking, as well as moto tours and bicycle rentals.
To making this possible, Bautista had to go illegally ten times to the United States. “I went ten times when ‘Mexico was Mexico,’ he said. “Now there is violence everywhere,” he noted. During his last visit to that country with other relatives, he formed a club and visited the Mexican Consulate in Minnesota to learn the programs and possibilities to begin a business in San Miguel. They got the information and started renting motorcycles for tours in the city. He came back to administer the new enterprise.
“Once the motorcycles were rented for a tour that included this area—the current adventure park—I was so impressed when I saw the canyon. I thought it was a great place for starting something,” he remarked. Bautista contacted the members of his club, and they decided to invest in the project. Bautista contacted three companies that offered the services. They picked the best, the one that offered security for the visitors. That is how, with the help of the local, state, and federal authorities, they opened this new place. The investment was up to one million pesos, and the money came from the federal 3×1 program (the federation, state, and local administration gives one peso for each peso invested by the beneficiary). The parks keeps working and growing.
The only bad thing is that the other members who invested do not know the place yet. “They have seen photos from Facebook, and they are happy with what we are doing. But they cannot come because they are undocumented. We will see if next year one of them comes.” For more information about the park, go to parquedeaventurasanmiguel.com
Annually the local administration celebrates the Migrants Day on December 18. This year the date changed to December 27, and it will take place at La Talega. The celebration will feature a mass, blessing of imported vehicles, a speech from Mayor Ricardo Villarreal, and a lunch with more than 500 migrants.
Osvaldo García, director of Social and Human Development in the local administration, commented that currently they are visiting rural communities with high numbers of migrants so they can get organized and improve their communities. The projects will be published next year.