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News + PoliticsSpecial Report: Scenes from the migrant caravan in Tijuana,...

Special Report: Scenes from the migrant caravan in Tijuana, part 2

“We all cross or nobody crosses.” The migrants are moved, but vow to stick together. Plus: how you can help.

Read part 1 of our coverage hereThree days ago, anthropologists Seth M. Holmes, Fabian Fernandez, and Levi Vonk returned to UC Berkeley after meeting the migrant caravan in Tijuana. During their time with the caravan, they volunteered at a street clinic, donated a vanload of supplies, supported a legal aid organization correcting misinformation, and took photographs of what they witnessed.

After widespread outcry, the Mexican Government began shuttling people to El Barretal, an indoor concert and dance club on the city’s outskirts. For many migrants, this felt like a step backward. El Barretal is a 40-minute drive from Tijuana’s center, and it was unclear how government organizations and NGOs serving migrants would be a able to reach them. There were also rumors that electricity at El Barretal was not functioning, running water was scarce, and it was located in a dangerous neighborhood. Yet, pressed by threats of police violence and the loneliness and poor conditions of the abandoned field, migrants decided to take the buses to the new shelter.

A young man holds a sign that reads: “I will be here until the last / day smiling at life on the outside / because inside I am empty / the night is very cold here Christmas no longer / is the same the family is incomplete at this / table where we who fight remain.” Photo by Seth M. Holmes
Young men play soccer while waiting for the next bus to take them to their new shelter, El Barretal. Photo by Levi Vonk.
Migrants line up outside the San Ysidro border crossing in hopes that their names will be called to cross and ask for asylum. Photo by Levi Vonk
A mural depicting migrants in downtown Tijuana. Their eyes are mirrors. Photo by Fabian Fernandez

We visited El Barretal the night Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, took office. For Mexico, it was an historic night, and many hope López Obrador will finally stymie the government’s widespread corruption and human rights atrocities. But for the 6000 migrants stranded in El Barretal, the future was much more uncertain. They took the megaphone and called for solidarity with the hunger strikers, chanting “Cruzamos todos o nadie cruza.” (“We all cross or nobody crosses.”) Their calls echoed across the open plaza, mixing with the sounds of others setting up their tents, of armed Mexican Marines distributing food, and Pentecostal church-goers singing.

Migrants who were not traveling with family members were forced to camp outside, exposed to the elements. Photo by Levi Vonk

The last song they chanted together before settling into another temporary home was the Latin American call to action: “El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido, El Pueblo Divido Jamás Será Escuchado.” (“The people united will never be defeated, The people divided will never be heard.”) We stand with these families and individuals who attempt to exercise their legally protected right to request protection from impossible conditions in their home countries. We must stand together at this moment of historic changes and great unknowns.

The family section of El Barretal, that covers three floors of a former night club on the outskirts of Tijuana. Photo by Seth M. Holmes
Migrants who were not traveling with family members were forced to camp outside, exposed to the elements. By Levi Vonk

HOW TO HELP If you would like to support organizations working with the caravan on the ground, please consider donating to the following (click for more info):

Migrants gather around a speaker calling for unity within the caravan, chanting “We all cross or nobody crosses.” Photo by Seth M. Holmes
The San Ysidro port of entry, where the US military recently installed barbed wire. Photo by Fabian Fernandez

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