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Eyewitnesses to the Refugee Exodus Give Perspectives on San Miguel’s Role

Sher Davidson_1

By Patricia Hirschl

San Miguel is not a border town. A day’s drive and more than 500 miles separate it from the closest point on the US border. Yet the train that runs through the edge of the city sometimes carries displaced Central American citizens clinging to its roof. While San Miguel’s tourists dine in style, migrants line up for rice and beans in a nearby Irapuato stadium.

On Tuesday, January 15, at 6pm, in the second-floor auditorium of Bellas Artes, two eyewitnesses provide perspective on this humanitarian crisis: Sher Davidson, representing the Latin American Relief Fund, will introduce Pastor Ignacio Martínez Ramírez, founder and director of ABBA, AC Albergue (a refugee shelter) in Celaya.

The NGO Latin American Relief Fund (LARF) is one of many groups formed to raise money and volunteers to help migrants moving through México. LARF pays the ABBA shelter’s rent and helps with utilities when necessary. The shelter normally houses 500 guests a month, but this fall, Central American refugees filled it to bursting.

There has been no shortage of good will in the San Miguel expat community in response to the crisis: in November, 200 people jammed El Sindicato to learn how to help.

Pastor Ignacio and his congregation began several years ago helping people riding the train going by their Celaya church. Eventually, they rented and refurbished the old hacienda that now houses the ABBA shelter. It provides three nights lodging, showers, food, medical and psychological help, information, legal help about asylum in México, and specialized counseling for victims of torture.

To show why so many refugees come through our area, Martínez points to a map of México on a flyer he gives to all who come through ABBA’s welcoming doors. Many believe the state of Guanajuato is near the US border. Others have heard of the economic prosperity in Celaya and Querétaro. All believe fervently that God and the Virgin of Guadalupe will guide them on their way.

San Miguel PEN, which is sponsoring this event, is a chapter of PEN International, the organization of writers that fights for freedom of expression around the world. The 150-peso admission helps fund local activities and includes a free glass of wine with dinner afterwards at Vivali’s, across the street at Hernandez Macias 66.

Tickets to this event are available at Ticket Central in the Biblioteca or at the door. For more information, visit



San Miguel PEN 2019 Winter Lecture presents

“People in Crisis: On the Migrant Trail”

Sher Davidson and Pastor Ignacio Martínez Ramírez

Tue, Jan 15, 6pm

In English and Spanish

Bellas Artes Auditorium

Hernandez Macias 75

150 pesos

Students 50 pesos


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