On the Border, a Childhood of Coming and Going

By Rodrigo Barraza García | February 2, 2018 | The Americas | Freedom from Violence & Exploitation, Gender Equity, Youth Empowerment

While scouting for new GFC partners, Rodrigo Barraza Garcia met “Mari,” who has been a migrant worker since she was just 12 years old. This is her story.

I was born in Guatemala, in a place called San José Ojetenam. It has its mountains, its little forest … It’s beautiful, believe my words.

We are all poor there. It is what it is.

I have crossed to Mexico since I was a little girl. Always coming and going. My dad worked for many years in the coffee plantations in Tapachula. The whole family worked there. Even the little ones. We stayed two or three months each year.

Crossing was very easy. You just walked a while on the hill and very soon you were on the other side. Piece of cake.

Sometimes you didn’t even realize that you had arrived. You had to ask.

I was in charge of my little brothers. I carried them. I had to take care of them, because they were so little.

Then immediately to work to cut coffee. I worked from early morning, when it was still dark, until it was night. From sun to sun, as they say.

The work was very heavy. Many times, I wanted to cry, I wanted to return. But I can´t.

We slept all tight, eight of us in a room … very hot, steamy, with mosquitoes. Many nights I couldn’t sleep, to be honest with you. Nobody could.

We were supposed to be paid half of the adult’s salary, but they never gave me anything. I don’t know if my dad was paid. Who knows.

In the past, the road wasn’t so dangerous. The government didn’t arrest people, there wasn’t so much danger. Now there are too many bad people who want to hurt you. And other worse things.

Now the police ask for papers for everything. To cross, to work… I still don´t know why they want a silly paper. A good person is a good person. End of story.

It’s been about 14 years since I crossed alone for the first time. Now I´m always coming and going. Cleaning houses, since I was 12. First my dad took me. “You have to help your family,” he told me. He was too old and couldn’t work in the plantations any more. And we didn’t have any money.

Now I´m 26 and I´m still going. To help my little brothers and sisters. I want them to study, to have a good job. I don´t want them to be like me.

You suffer in this job, believe me. You have bosses who shout at you, who hit you. Some of them want to touch you. But I never let them.

They laugh at you if you speak your indigenous language. If you don´t know how to use electrical devices. They laugh if you’re tired. “But you only clean, don’t be lazy,” they tell you.

And you can´t go out. You live locked up. As in a prison. And working from sun to sun. As in the coffee plantations. Nothing has changed.

Sometimes I think I only came to the world to suffer. But then I remember I´m doing this for my family, and I feel strong.

And I´m still coming and going. What I am going to do? San Jose is pretty but it’s impossible to find a job there. And my parents didn´t want me to study. Because I´m a woman. But I don’t let them to do the same with my little sisters.

I know that one day I will stop coming and going. I´m just waiting for my brothers and sisters to finish their studies. Because I don’t want them to be like me.

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Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.

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