In a small village, prayers and hope for missing migrants

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SAN MARCOS ATEXQUILAPAN, Mexico – Holding rosaries, residents of this mountain village looked at photos of three of their own atop the altar of the local church, praying that teenagers Jair, Yovani and Misael wouldn’t part of 53 migrants who perished inside a suffocating trailer in Texas.

Waiting for confirmation has been agonizing for families from Mexico to Honduras. Now they hope for what would have been feared before – capture by Border Patrol, even hospitalization – all but the solemn finality that has spread family by family across the region.

Then again, at least they would know.

Not far from the church, outside the attractive two-storey houses of the Olivares family – those of each sister and their parents – a black tarp has been hung to shade the dozens of people who come each day to be with the parents of teenage brothers Yovani and Jair Valencia Olivares and mother and father of their cousin, Misael Olivares Monterde, 16.

Such a blanket is customary for wakes, when the family home cannot accommodate all those who come to pay homage to it. But in this case, it’s a wake where the residents of the town of 3,000 come to cheer the family up, praying and swapping stories about the boys.

On Friday, the wait for a family ended in sadness. Word quickly spread throughout the city that Misael was among the dead. Others gathered outside the Olivares’ homes, offering hugs and condolences.

Candles were still burning on a makeshift altar at home, where Teófilo Valencia and Yolanda Olivares Ruiz, parents of Jair, 19, and Yovani, 16, were hoping for a miracle.

A day earlier, Valencia had sat staring at his phone, reading the latest messages he had received from them.

“Dad, now we’re going to San Antonio,” Yovani wrote at 11:16 a.m. Monday. Half an hour later, his brother wrote to their father that they were ready to work hard and pay for everything.

Hours later came the gruesome discovery of the semi-trailer abandoned next to train tracks on the outskirts of this South Texas town.

The cousins ​​had left together on June 21. Yolanda Olivares Ruiz, the brothers’ mother, hid Yovani’s school certificate in her wallet as ID and stuffed three changes of clothes for each into backpacks, along with phone numbers of relatives in the United States. States and Mexico.

Hermelinda Monterde Jiménez spent the night before their departure talking with her son Misael. “He was like, ‘Mom, wake me up’ and for a while I thought about not doing it so he wouldn’t go,” she said. “But it was his decision and his own dream.”

Their parents took out loans, using their house as collateral to cover the $10,000 smuggling fee for each cousin. They paid part in advance and had to pay the rest after the boys arrived safely.

The young people wanted to work, save money and come back to open their own clothing and shoe store. They gave themselves four years.

Last Friday, June 24, they were in Laredo, Texas.

They told their parents that after the weekend they would be taken to their destination in Austin, where a cousin who had made the trip a few months earlier was waiting for them. Last week, 20 residents left the city for the United States.

The family only heard of the ill-fated caravan on Tuesday. They tried to reach the boys, but the messages and calls were unsuccessful. They went the same day to the government offices, providing all the information that could help the search.

On Wednesday, the Mexican consul in San Antonio confirmed that residents of the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz – in which San Marcos is located – were among the 27 Mexican victims. On Thursday, state attorneys traveled to San Antonio to help with identifications.

Meanwhile, the Olivares wait and pray.

A week after his 18th birthday, Marcos Antonio Velasco left the Mexican capital for the United States, accompanied by his friend José Luis Vásquez Guzmán, whom he had met in his mother’s hometown in the southern state of ‘Oaxaca. This week, authorities confirmed that Vásquez Guzmán was one of the survivors of the caravan and that he had been hospitalized in San Antonio.

Velasco’s family’s fears grew when a Mexican Foreign Ministry official called Wednesday to say their son’s ID had been found in the trailer. Since then, they’ve shared information that could help identify their son, but they’ve only been told to wait.

“I want to know where he is, if he is alive or dead,” said his mother María Victoria Velasco.

The wait ended Thursday for the family of Jazmín Nayarit Bueso Núñez in El Progreso, Honduras. Their prayers for his safe return have not been answered. She was confirmed as one of the dead in San Antonio.

Bueso Núñez suffered from lupus, an immunological disease, which had cost him a job in an assembly plant and whose treatments were very expensive, his family said.

A family friend had offered to help her get to the United States, where she hoped to find a better-paying job to help support the 15-year-old son she left with her parents and find a job. treatment for his illness.

Before leaving on June 3, the 37-year-old told her father that she intended to migrate.

“Dad, I came to say goodbye to you,” José Santos Bueso told him during their last visit. “I’m going north.”

He tried to talk her out of it, noting the dangers. “No, dad, it’s a special trip,” she told him. “‘I was there, girl,’ I told her. ‘There are no special trips.’ The only special trip was to fly on a visa, he told her.

“The smuggler wins $15,000. He says he’ll take me no worries,” she told him.

She was in Laredo when they last spoke. She told him that the smugglers were going to take their phones before continuing, so she wouldn’t be able to communicate for a while.

On Thursday, a relative in the United States who had helped the family provide identity documents to authorities told them the sad truth, his brother Erick Josué Rodríguez said.

“The economic situation, the social situation that exists in our country is very, very difficult,” Rodríguez said. “That’s why we see day after day, month after month, caravans, migrants. It’s because people have dreams and don’t have opportunities.

Back in San Marcos Atexquilapan, Mexico, sisters Hermelinda and Yolanda walked late Thursday from their home to church carrying pictures of their sons. They were flanked by women carrying candles.

Inside, the mothers sat in the front row as the priest asked those gathered to pray.

“It’s not that they are criminals,” he said. “They went in search of their daily bread.”

The townspeople prayed, “We ask that these boys have a dream of a better life, give them that consolation, that relief wherever they are, Lord, may answers be given because these families are suffering. , they have an anguished heart”.

Martínez reported from El Progreso, Honduras. Sherman reported from Mexico. AP writer Fabiola Sánchez in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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