Journey to the North

Miguel Angel, 17
NOTE: All the children’s names have been changed to protect their identities. NASP stories about children are not matched with their portraits.
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      • Audio

        Hear part of Miguel Angel's story in his own words


      A lot of people come here because of the gangs, because once you are my age, seventeen years old, people in the gang force you to join them and to sell drugs and all that. You can’t move around easily, you always have to be very careful. It’s dangerous everywhere in Honduras. There is a lot of evil because of the gangs. I had problems with them at school: they always wanted money, they threatened me. People hear about what they do because if someone doesn’t do what they say, well, they do things to you, or to your family. I was scared of comes here fleeing that.

      And I also left because there is no work in Honduras. There is no money. There is nothing. You come here to overcome that, hoping to do something better. But if there were peace in my country, I would go back happily.

      It’s a risk to leave, and you have to prepare yourself and be ready for whatever might happen on the road. The most dangerous part is crossing Mexico because of The Zetas (transnational Mexican drug cartel) those guys don’t spare anyone…

      I came here on busses with a coyote (smuggler). We were seven with him. All the busses are stopped and they ask for identification in Mexico, but we just had to pay 500 pesos each time. The coyote would give us the money.

      But before we got to the border (with the United States) we had some problems with some police who weren’t really police. They made us get into a truck and took us somewhere and demanded money and information, but we didn’t have any money on us and the coyote abandoned us. He knew who those guys really were, but we didn’t. Afterwards they left us in the middle of the city at a metro stop…without anything. We didn’t know anyone, we didn’t know where we were. There was someone in the station selling stuff and we asked him for help. We were able to call the coyote but he didn’t come until the next day. We didn’t eat anything that night. We didn’t sleep at all, we didn’t have anywhere to sleep. I don’t know where I was when that happened or what the place was called. It was the worst (laughs nervously)… yes… (repeats in low voice) it was the worst.

      Credit: Ed Ntiri

      After that, I waited in a warehouse at the border for seventeen days waiting to cross into the U.S. with a lot of other people. And it was horrible. It was cold. And in the seventeen days that I was there I didn’t eat more than once a day, I was lucky if I ate at all because there were so many people. It was a small two-story house and there were about forty of us, something like that, we all slept on top of each other without blankets or anything. There were people from all over, from Mexico too. It was the Mexicans who could go out to buy food: they helped us a lot. We couldn’t go outside because there were soldiers walking around who asked for identification.

      The coyotes finally said it was the night for me to go. We left the house and crossed over to the other side but we didn’t walk for more than an hour and then the guides abandoned us because Immigration (US Border Patrol) saw us. We got caught and then I was in immigration detention for three weeks.

      At first I was kept in “The Freezer” (preliminary holding cell) for three days. I don’t know how they manage to keep the air so cold in there. We couldn’t sleep in there either (laughs nervously). It’s freezing. And there are no blankets, there are no beds or anything. Later they took me to a house for minors and there, yeah, my nightmare ended (laughs again).

      NOTE: All the children’s names have been changed to protect their identities. NASP stories about children are not matched with their portraits.

      A mural in the 72 shelter in Tenosique, Mexico shows the different northbound routes to the border and the different risks migrants might face on the journey. The 72 shelter is the southernmost shelter in Mexico and the first for many Central American migrants.

      Credit: Tomas Ayuso
      NOTE: All the children’s names have been changed to protect their identities. NASP stories about children are not matched with their portraits.


      Micheline Aharonian Marcom, Interviewer

      Ed Ntiri, Photographer

      Tomas Ayuso, Photographer

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