Reflections from a Migrant Rights Caravan VI: Protesting Migrant Kidnappings in Coatzacoalcos
Day 5 – Coatzacoalcos, Mexico
“No more deaths! No more massacres! Everyone has a right to migrate!” The crowd of over 400 Central American migrants, migrant family members, and human rights activists marched through the streets of Coatzacoalcos in the state of Veracruz, Mexico. Waving banners and singing songs, the protesters made clear their demand that Mexican authorities take definitive action to end the violence and abuse that is being carried out against migrants in the country.
Migrants who travel through Mexico, headed northward and to the United States along the common migration routes, face a slew of dangers. Abuses, assault, robberies, and rapes have become common parts of the trip for many migrants, as thieves, gangs, and corrupt officials take advantage of the vulnerable situation of migrants in the country in order to seek personal gain. The number of kidnappings of migrants has grown particularly alarming in recent years, with estimates from the Mexican Human Rights Commission (CNDH) running from 20,000 to 50,000 cases per year. Sometimes, these kidnappings end in death, such as occurred in the massacre of 72 migrants in Tamaulipas last year.
In the face of all this violence, we might expect migrants and their families to despair or lose hope. But the protest in the streets of Coatzacoalcos shone a light on a different side of the story: the teenage migrant with a fist in the air shouting “No more kidnappings!”; the line of migrants and Mexican activists holding up a banner and jumping in unison to a chant; the committee of Honduran mothers holding up photos of their sons and daughters and taking turns shouting into the megaphone. The sun was scorching and the subject matter was heavy, but the group was organized, and the participants gained energy and power from one another to fight for their rights.
I was filled with energy as well. The event, which brought together participants from throughout Central and North America, was hard proof of the power that can be gained through transnational organizing. Having the participation of organizations and individuals from throughout the region not only increased our numbers, it moved the spirit of the march beyond the national context and highlighted the need for comprehensive solutions for justice in the region. Violence against migrants doesn`t just happen in Mexico – it begins with the lack of opportunities and physical danger in migrants` own countries, and revolves around the lack of legal options they have to pursue a better future and provide for their families, whether in the US or at home. The movement for justice for migrants and their families requires that activists, organizations, and people directly affected by the current migration situation come together to learn from one another`s perspectives, gain strength, and make change.
It was in this spirit of transnational collaboration that another US activist and I decided to contribute our unique voices as US citizens to the march. With a thin-tipped marker and an old pen, we scratched out our messages onto colored poster board: “No human being is illegal!” “United States: Respect the Rights of Migrants.” Later on, as I marched down the street, holding my handmade poster with two hands over my head, I received thumbs up and smiles from migrants and family members who read the message. And though after a while my arms began to tire from the weight of the sign, my step was sure and my voice stayed strong as I chanted and marched alongside the rest of the participants, all of us heading towards our common goal.
Read previous posts in the series “Reflections from a Migrant Rights Caravan”:
Part 1: Step by Step Towards Peace–A Six-Day Caravan for Migrants’ Rights
Part 4: The Graves in Arriaga
Part 5: Women Along the Migrant Trail