Migrant Youth Speak Out at Transnational Encounter

By Rodrigo Barraza García | February 14, 2018 | The Americas | Freedom from Violence & Exploitation, Gender Equity, Youth Empowerment

The Second Transnational Encounter of Migrant Children and Youth was held in the city of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, on January 24 – 26, 2018, the with the presence of more than 60 girls and boys from Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, and Honduras.

The sponsor of the event was the civil organization Voces Mesoamericanas Acción con Pueblos Migrantes, which has been working for almost ten years on the comprehensive protection of the human rights of the migrant population in Chiapas, Mexico.

The main objectives of the encounter was to reflect on the identity changes that girls, boys and young people experience in migratory contexts, and the possibilities of building new forms of relationships and participation in their communities, as well as encouraging the creation of a transnational network of young migrants in the Mesoamerican region.

On the last day of the Encounter, Rodrigo Barraza García and the Voces Mesoamericanas Team sat down with some of the children to help them create a statement about their reflections. These are their words.

We have been meeting for three days to think, play, and create together. We come from different countries and regions of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico.

We cross borders to get to know ourselves a little bit more and reflect on our own identity as young people: girls and boys who live through migration, forced displacements, and violence in our territories.

Who are we? How do we define ourselves? What do we want for our future? These are strong questions that we ask ourselves. And so we began our Encounter, thinking as if we were trees with roots, trunks, branches, fruits and seeds that expand wanting to know the world, and also carrying the memory of grandparents and grandmothers.

We share our ideas about what adults call identity, and we think that there is social pressure marking how we should be, creating stereotypes about us, criticizing us for wanting to be different. For wanting to migrate and build a better life.

We reflect that the church, the family, the community, the schools, and the media point out ways to walk life. Some things we like and others not much.

Sometimes we feel uncomfortable, sometimes we are happy to find that which moves our hearts and our senses. In that way, we find that we also have the capacity and freedom to choose how we want to be, that we are passionate, that we have different interests, tastes, and ways of expressing ourselves.

We are diversity on the move. We are not always the same. We reinvent ourselves and we become the daily experience. And migrating many times helps us to be better. To be ourselves. To be what we want to be.

Who are we?

We are children and young migrants who feel, who think, who light up like the moon. We live on earth with water and sun, we enjoy collective work, we have dreams, ideals and we believe in solidarity.

We are also girls, boys, and young people of native peoples, we are Mayans tsotsil, tseltal, kiqué, chuj. From our grandmothers and grandparents we inherit culture, language, and spirituality that connects us with the nature of which we are part. Many of these roots sustain us, give strength to our bodies and our spirits with which we walk life.

Why are we here?

We are aware of what happens in our reality, we question the impositions of the political and economic system, of the media, of colonizing education. We are critical of reality and we want to transform it because it hurts us.

We are political subjects, we seek to defend life, protect the earth, build a just and dignified world where all people can have a dignified life and where children´s words are heard.

Sometimes people tell us that because we are not adults we can´t choose, we can´t think, we can´t question—that this is for the future, that we are the future, always learning and nothing else. But we say, “WE ARE THE PRESENT, AND FROM THIS PRESENT WE ARE ALREADY DREAMING AND ACTING.”

We come from different geographies to share everything we are already doing to change the world: we participate in groups to promote mobilization, defend rights, and spread the word that we want dignity to become a habit.

We make photos, video, music, hip hop, theater, painting, puppets; we cultivate and take care of the land; we recycle; we learn alternative medicine; we exchange knowledge; we value and recover the identity of our peoples; we build alternatives to migration; we defend the right to a dignified and safe migration.

We create with our hands, with our bodies and with our hearts, other ways of seeing the world, other ways of relating to each other.

What do we want to say?

We say that we do not want to continue fleeing from violence, we do not want forced migration, we do not want the dispossession of our land and territory, we do not want deaths, nor disappearances. We do not want to live with fear and grief, we do not want inequality or racism—we do not want adults to be the ones who decide what world we want to have.

We do not want to continue migrating because we have no other option, because we cannot study, because we have to work since we are ten, because we are discriminated against for being women, peasants, or indigenous people.

We want to migrate to fulfill our dreams, not just to survive.

Today, here in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, we are defining our steps to follow.

We will continue exchanging experiences and weaving alliances to influence socially and politically in our territories and communities, because we want peace and good living. We will build a collective and organizational work through a Transnational Network of Youth and Childhood.

In response to imposed borders we choose to make bridges and keep walking together. We choose life. We choose love. We choose togetherness.

Here we are. We are not going anywhere. And we will continue talking until we are heard.

Written in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, on January 26, 2018. Translated by Rodrigo Barraza García.

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