14ymedio, Alejandro Mena Ortiz, 25 April 2022 –The next bus, which we boarded at San Pedro Sula, had more capacity than normal, because it had three seats on one side and two on the other, so, luckily, we were able to sit down. I think that on the other bus some people did have to stand up, but on ours they put the bags and backpacks in the aisle and people sat on top of them.
We left there at five-something in the morning, and they took us to some mountains in the north of Honduras, next to a steep hill, where we had to wait for the trucks that were going to take us through that mountain range to enter through Morales, in Guatemala.
We were there, on a muddy hill from the rain, and fear took hold of some of us, because the drivers and passengers carried pistols, some even long weapons. That stunned us, but at the same time we felt protected. We told ourselves: “Well, if these people are armed it will be more difficult for them to rob us on the road, but even if someone has a problem, they will surely shoot him in the head and throw him down a ravine.”
Then, between 20 and 25 trucks arrived and they put 15 people in each one, although there were 12 or 13 of us in mine. In the mountains, the situation was quite complicated. The truck, a Toyota with a lot of engine power, shook a lot as we went near the cliffs and the bushes. Men grabbed each other and made a mesh, protecting the women. It seemed that we were going backwards. Then, a girl from Cienfuegos began to cry; we all tried to calm her down, but she didn’t stop the whole way.
In some parts, where the hills were too steep, and everything was full of mud and stones, we had to get out of the bus, and the men ran as we pushed the bus. The first two hills were easier and I managed to climb on the bus at the same time as the others, but the third time I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I’m asthmatic and was thinking: oh, my God, they are going to leave me here, abandoned. Luckily, one of them helped me considerably. He got down from the bus, grabbed me, helped me up and gave me some water. In addition, they all agreed that if pushing the bus again was necessary, I would not do it.
Throughout the journey, despite being so unpleasant and having mud everywhere, we saw some very beautiful landscapes, with exuberant vegetation, and a river with transparent water. All the Cubans who had been traveling in a now disabled van were washing themselves there.
We didn’t know we had crossed the border until we saw a stone, half covered by vegetation, that indicated it: “Welcome to the Republic of Guatemala”. There, they took us out of the vans and put us in some other smaller, cramped vans. There were almost 200 of us in three vehicles. We arrived at a post where there were many Guatemalan soldiers, with their machine guns, but what they did was open the fence and let us through, no problem.
When we arrived in Morales, they left us in a house on the outskirts that was full – of course – of Cubans. We crowded into the patio of that house, because they told us to please not to stay outside so that the police wouldn’t see us. Inside the house itself, a woman had a table where they sold everything: drinks with electrolytes, to avoid dehydration, soft drinks, water, apples, bananas… A captive audience, we bought some things, although they sold at a fairly expensive price.
The intermediaries that were there said that they would contact the relatives of those who did not have money, so that they could send it to them
Coincidentally, the group of 15 Cubans who had been robbed in Honduras, at the Danlí terminal crossing, was there. Most were from Havana. According to their version, the old man who was driving the van was in cahoots with the assailants, three Hondurans who appeared from the middle of nowhere, at four in the morning, in the dark, with guns that they began shooting into the air, telling everyone to get down from the bus. Then they lined them up and searched them everywhere. They took absolutely everything; they only left them their clothes and coats. Although they had come this far because they had paid for it in advance, they couldn’t continue, because at that point they had to pay more money.
The intermediaries that were there said that they would contact the relatives of those who did not have money, so that they could send them some. At least half fell by the wayside. The rest of us were sent to a small hotel to rest and to continue the next day. They called us by the coyotes’ names. They told us: “Junior’s list, top, money”, for example, although, in many cases, the coyotes already had our money, from the relative who advanced it, so they gave it to us to pay for food and basic things.
From the house in the outskirts to the hotel in Morales, we arrived in something similar to a cocotaxi, whose driver told us: “Do you know that Ricardo Arjona is Guatemalan? I’m going to play a song by him called Mojado, (Wet) because at the end you ‘re going to get wet in the Rio Bravo and this song is about that.” I tell him: “Come on, yes, put it on”. I went with a girl and a guy, and the three of us sang it. There was an emotional moment, because one wonders: “What am I doing here? What am I doing here?” It is a little difficult.
In that hotel there were more Cubans, two from Santiago, with whom I spoke. One of them had the loud voice of a television announcer but multiplied by ten, but it was to make a video call to his daughter and tell her that he might not see her again, because they were going to kill him on the way, and he burst into tears. That made me remember my family, call them and cry too, like them. From Cuba, my wife and my parents encouraged me, told me that everything was fine, although I knew it wasn’t, that their pain of being separated was the same as mine.
That night I was able to sleep, although there were eight of us and there were four beds, two in each. I was also able to bathe, with very cold water, which came directly from a spring.
I brought enough wet wipes from Nicaragua and I began to clean my clothes, my shoes, my backpack, full of mud, as best I could. We were also able to buy water, beer, soft drinks in a small lobby… I spent a dollar on a bottle of apple-flavored water and I didn’t like it. The others bought beer and drank it. I wasn’t in the mood for beer.
Since the food was not that good, someone suggested that we buy some pepperoni pizzas that cost 15 dollars and, since they were very large, we shared them between two. They also brought us three-liter bottles of a carbonated orange soft drink that I loved and drank throughout my stay in Guatemala. Imagine, Little Caesars Pizza… The pizza made our night a happy one; it was a moment like being with family.
Scare in Guatemala: they looked at Cubans with distrust
Translated by Norma Whiting
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