The Humanity of the Exodus - The Other Side of The Mexican Border

November 3, 2018 News,Stories & Experiences

Written by Eleanor Martinez

If, for a moment, a person can step back from the bitter politics of this exodus of human beings heading north from Central America, there is a much larger and deeper story. It’s one that travels heart to heart, mile after mile, a story of kindness and compassion.

The reason for this exodus is not just that many people have been threatened with death or have had family members killed by gangs because they were unable to pay protection money in what have become some of the most violent cities in the world. It’s also because a dry zone linked to climate change has developed across parts of Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras resulting in failed crops for small farmers and subsistence households for three years in a row.


And it’s because the governments of these countries are so corrupted as a consequence of internal politics and external interference that they lack the will and capacity to deal with these issues.

So people left, traveling in masses for protection. It was that or die. By the time they reached Mexico, they were strong in determination to find a better life but also suffering from inadequate food, infections from sleeping outdoors in tropical downpours, and the physically punishing effects of walking at least 30 miles a day.

Chiapas, where the migrants crossed, is the poorest State in Mexico. The average wage in country is 338 pesos per day, just under 17 USD. Chiapas falls far below this.

Yet when the migrants/refugees/immigrants crossed the border, they were met with the kindness of people who had little more than they did, who were living in the rubble of what used to be their homes than the State and Federal governments were too corrupt or inept to help them rebuild 13 months after the earthquake that destroyed them.


They opened the public squares of their villages as places for the travelers to sleep, fed them platters of tortillas, rice and beans, carried water to them at the side of the road and took them in battered trucks to their next destination. They gave them clean clothing, hats, shoes and love.

The people of the impoverished south, people who had the least, did the most. It’s difficult to put this all into words, even for someone who worked among these wonderful people for a few days. When I think of the depths of kindness and respect I witnessed, it brings me to tears at the deep compassion humans are capable of.


This photo that appeared in one of the national US newspapers encapsulates this for me. Many migrants wore cheap plastic sandals. On asphalt heated to egg-frying temperatures on days when the air reached a steamy 104 degrees, the bottoms of their feet blistered and burned. But late one afternoon, while they bathed in the river, people from a nearby village placed sweet, ripe Valencia oranges in their shoes to refresh them before the evening meal.

If this does not melt a heart of stone, I don’t know what could.

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