Two cousins observe the waters of the Rio Grande. A load a baby in his arms. They are part of a group of migrants who have been traveling from Central America for weeks. About to reach the promised land, the river stops them. The premiums look at the current. They must swim by, floating, clinging to a rope, a rope, saving the force of water and cold. "I think I'm going to die," says one of them, the baby's. "I do not say anything," says the other, narrator of this story, "because I also think I'm going to die."
These are testimonies collected by Juan Pablo Villalobos in I had a dream (Anagrama, 2018), his latest book, windows open to the paths of children and adolescents who left Central America seeking refuge, asylum, rest: a better future in the United States. It is a short work, 120 pages, a dozen stories, fragments of fear, courage and resilience.
In another of the chapters, two brothers wait for days in the Mexican desert, waiting for the migration agents of the neighboring country to retire, to clear the way. They spend days and days in the sun, with hardly any water or food. Thousands of miles from home, his only chance of survival is to surrender to the Border Patrol. "They did not take our eyes off," one of them tells Villalobos, "and there were also snakes, in his eyes." The same snakes that lurk their ankles in the desert.
The Mexican writer's book is one of several that have been published these months, memories of the different violence suffered by migrants en route to the United States. The violence of the gangs, which expel them from their villages, from their neighborhoods in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala; the violence that accompanies them along the way in the form of abuse and extortion; the sticky violence that rips the skin of the detainee and then, finally, the deportee, inhabitant of a unipersonal country: I am not here or there.
Given the urgency of those who migrate, the punishment they accept for the possibility of living better, is it fair to talk about migrants? Is not it more correct to say refugees, to banish a euphemism that shrinks horror, disguises it? Villalobos says: "It is clear to me that they are refugees, we tend to think of refugees when we speak of countries at war, and what is happening in Central America is a war, the levels of violence in San Pedro Sula, for example, are higher than places at war, it's a humanitarian crisis and the right word is refugees. "
Born in Tijuana, the sculptor Luis Alberto Urrea grew up in a neighborhood of Mexican migrants from the south of San Diego. White with light eyes, it was never accepted by Chicanos or gringos. Urrea published a few years ago The Devil's Highway, which narrates the drama of a group of migrants who died while crossing the Arizona desert. Alliance of Novels has just published in Spanish The House of Broken Angels, a family saga with cross-border roots. "It's not migration, it's an exodus," he says, "an exodus of biblical proportions, and up there is an obsession to conquer an impossibility with the wall."
In Do not come back (Almadía, 2018), Leonardo Tarifeño travels repeatedly to a hostel in Tijuana, a large breakfast bar, a rescue network for those who return. Of the expelled. Denied the desired paradise, the migrant becomes deported: the one who no longer goes. Write Tarifeño: "I took one last look at the fence [fronteriza] (...) It seemed to me, this time, ideology in a pure state, materialized ".
What did you mean by that? "I wanted to express that, for me, one of the great walls that separate us from migrants is represented by ideological blindness, since they are often talked about from a position justified by our ideas about it and not by direct contact with those people".
And the caravan? If the fence is an ideology, What are the caravans of migrants who have crossed Mexico these weeks? Villalobos says: "The caravan is a distorting mirror that grotesquely returns your prejudices to us, we face what we are, our contradictions, in Mexico we see these outbreaks of xenophobia, in a country that has 12 million migrants there".
Urrea questions the position of its compatriots with respect to which it arrives, trumpistas or not. "We have the fantasy of the other: 'there is a foreigner who wants to get in.' Hopefully the day will come when we will understand that we are all ourselves, that we are a family, although it seems to be science fiction."
Aware of the fragility of the denied, the expelled, Tarifeño questions his own feelings. "Their very presence imposes questions that I do not even know if I want to answer: How far could they fall? Do they still fight for something? What do they cling to?
Beyond illusion or hope, maybe it's fear. They cling to the fear of returning. Or fear clings to them. In the last chapter of Villalobos' book, Abril says that she left Honduras after three men raped her one afternoon after leaving school. Years later, a judge in the United States asks him, are you afraid to return? She remembers those days. "I never said anything to the police because I was afraid that, when they got out of prison, they would kill me and kill my brothers, my family, because they told me they knew where I lived."