Cuban Migration Part 5 – At the Border with Mexico, if You Don’t Pay the ‘Tax’, You Get Shot

We got on a little bus that took us down a rather ugly road, through which we arrived at La Técnica. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Alejandro Mena Ortiz, 27 April 2022 — In that motel there were rooms and hammocks, which were outside, in the yard, and those with the fewest resources stayed there, sometimes women with children. Juan, the trafficker, would then say: “Come to the room, even if you don’t pay me, it doesn’t matter. Give them food, get milk for the children, I’ll pay for it.” The man showed his gentle side from time to time.

There, I also met three Hondurans, to whom I told the story of Cuba, emphasizing what had happened last year and since Díaz-Canel became president, and they said: “But how can it be? Why don’t you go to the streets?” And I explained to them: “You don’t know what a dictatorship is.” When I finished telling them the story, they felt very sad and identified with the cause. They gave me a lot of support and strength. They were very Christian, they told me: “God is going to help the Cuban people. God is going to liberate them.”

These boys were between 20 and 25 years old and were police officers in southern Honduras, and said that there are no gangs in that area and the agents do not accept bribes. In their case, they left because, like everywhere, there is a lot of inflation and their income was not enough. Their intention was to work for a few years in the US and return to Honduras with money because, according to them, you can live there in peace and tranquility. The North is bad.

I also met another Honduran and we conversed, although he ended up stealing some cigarettes from me. He didn’t even know Cuba existed. They assaulted him in Guatemala and they took everything from him. He had to spend three days there, sleeping on a hammock, waiting for his brother, who lived in California, to send the coyote some money so he could continue.

I also met three Hondurans there, and I told them the story of Cuba, emphasizing what had happened last year and since Díaz-Canel took over the presidency

I spent four days living practically like a king. Juana took care of me perfectly. I requested what I wanted to eat, and then I told her that I needed a coat, a hat, and gloves, because they had told me that it was very cold further north, especially in Mexico. I gave her 27 bucks and she bought me all of that. I gave her a white shirt, the shirt I left Cuba with. I told her: “Look, I wore this shirt when I left Cuba and I don’t think I’m going to wear it anymore, give it to one of your grandsons.” And she, very grateful, gave me a chocolate and an orange that her son sent.

While I was there, like on the third day, two young women in nurses’ attire came with portable coolers and clipboards and papers, asking who was not vaccinated. They had Moderna vaccines, and Juana was missing the third dose, that is, the booster. “I’m missing the third, can I get it?” she asked them. “Yes, come this way, please sit over there.” And in less than a minute they gave her the dose, and filled out her data… and I kept thinking: “Well, in Cuba, even to get vaccinated you have to stand in line.” She told me that the first few days there was a waiting line to get in, but not anymore. There are many people who have not wanted to be vaccinated, for example Juan and the coyote.

On the fourth day I met two other people: the one who would be my guide, who was called El Gordo (Fatso), and a 17-year-old Honduran girl, Alison, who would come with me to the very border, to the Rio Grande.

At four in the morning, they woke me up and, after cleaning up to leave, they told me that, since I was Cuban, I had to separate myself from the group, to go around a border point before reaching a place called La Técnica, where the Usumacinta River is located, which divides Guatemala from Mexico. Of course, getting charged a lot more than the others. So they put 30 people on a wagon and I went in a car.

They took me to a house about three blocks away, where there was a Cuban in a hammock, and told me to wait with him. I got scared and told myself that something strange was happening, because the guy was a bit mysterious.

According to what he told me, he had lived in Russia for three years and, after falling on bad times, with only the 50 euros that he had arrived with, he began to pick up Cuban tourists at the airport, or those who went there to shop, and set them up in apartments. But then the pandemic came and, since his sister lived in the US, he decided to come here. He explained to me that a Cuban cannot go directly to Nicaragua from Russia, but that he had to return to Cuba. From the same airport in Managua, he had gone directly to Santa Elena, without stopping. He was exhausted.

We were there, talking, when a car came to take us both. The driver also talked a lot with us about Cuba, and he too could not understand how people put up with so much, with so much ruthlessness. The man asked us to carry 20 dollars in our pocket in case the police came, and the trip was very tense. I had to lend the Cuban-Russian the 20 dollars, which he did not have, in case they asked us, because we are Cubans and we have to help each other.

There was a huge number of Cubans, at least 40 or 50, with two or three guides who seemed to be bull-fighting Cubans, because as someone in Palenque told me, we are a bit undisciplined. (14ymedio)

The driver told us: “Take these 100 quetzals. If the policeman says something to you, give them 100 quetzals, and if they want more money, give him the 20 dollars and that’s it. There is no more money and then it’s OK for them to kill you.” He told us, just like that.

Luckily, we only found a small checkpoint and the driver said: “Hello, I have two little boxes here. I’ll give you this. It’s all I have, because there may be more checkpoints ahead, if I give it all to you now, I can’t then give it to the others, and look, it’s just two little boxes”. The policeman told him, “Ok, no problem, go ahead.”

Later, when we were bordering the mountains, we had a motorcycle in front of us that was warning us of where there were policemen or cars, then, we would avoid them by turning on a different block. Although it was quite a harrowing journey, I saw some truly beautiful scenery. The geography of Guatemala, in general, is spectacular. If it hadn’t been for the danger we were in…

In the end, we arrived at a little town with barely three houses, and he stopped the car at a grocery store, which are small stalls that are in front of the houses where they sell everything. We went in and bought some chips, some juice and some soda crackers before continuing. We were very close to La Técnica. 

“Take these 100 quetzals. If the policeman says something to you, give them the 100 quetzals, and if they want more money, give them the 20 dollars and that’s it”

There, a man got out of a thicket and almost scared me to death. This guy explained to us that we had to walk approximately one and a half or two kilometers, but not to worry, there was no slope to climb, that everything was flat, but please, we had to walk as fast as possible. On the other side, a man would be waiting for us on a motorcycle to take us to the wagon where the others were going.

We crossed two pastures with barbed fences and some huge cows. One stared at us and the man told us: “Stay still, because if you run, he will come after you.” Finally, we arrived where the motorcycle was. I had kept the 200 quetzals that I had in my pocket where I keep my cell phone, but I had taken it out to film videos and the bills must have fallen on the road.

When El Gordo asked us for the money, of course, I couldn’t find it. So I had to give him those 20 dollars from before, which the Cuban-Russian had already returned to me, and we got on a little bus that took us down a rather ugly road, through which we arrived at La Técnica. It is a place that might seem touristy, but in reality, it is full of migrants: a good number of those who try to reach the United States cross through there.

They sit down on a ladder and charge you a tax. If you don’t pay them, you don’t cross. Or you get shot. (14ymedio)

We had lunch in that area, in a restaurant on the way down to the river, and immediately a man came and asked us for unlocked phones. There, we changed the phone lines that we brought, mine from Nicaragua and Alison’s from Honduras, to an already configured Telcel line, with mobile data and everything.

There was a great number of Cubans, at least 40 or 50, with two or three guides who seemed to be bull-fighting Cubans, because, as someone in Palenque told me, we are a bit undisciplined.

The tickets to go to Mexico are sold there.  I don’t know how much they cost, because our guide bought them. It is controlled by a cartel that manages the passage of migrants.

Our guide knew them: “Hey, guys! What’s going on? I’ve got two little boxes here.” He paid them and we were able to take one of those boats, like a very large wooden canoe, with an outboard motor.  Then we crossed the river, which had a very strong current.  The landscapes were beautiful and I was able to enjoy them.  We crossed to the other shore without any more incidents.


Encounter with Ángel, the gang member who fled from crime____________

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