Less than 24 hours after Mexico lived one of his worst tragedies with migrants in recent years, at the scene of the event hardly any signs of the Dantesque images seen shortly before are perceived.
The truck that crashed on Thursday with more than 160 migrants crammed aboard and killed at least 55 of them was removed a few hours later from the highway near Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of the state of Chiapas, in the southeast of the country.
In the scene, only the tire marks are observed in the steep curve in which the driver of the trailer lost control due to apparent speeding and collided with a bridge.
On the side of the road, however, a small makeshift memorial by local residents remembers the victims In the form of candles, crosses and bottles of water and energy drinks, the ones that migrants crave most on their journey to the United States and that perhaps best describe the suffering and hardship of their journey.
“I heard the impact, we came running and we ran into that horrible scene. Of pieces of people, screaming women, children … very cruel, very sad. I never saw anything like it,” he says about the sinister Rodolfo Carillo, a resident of the area.
He was one of the neighbors who arrived at the scene of the accident before the emergency services and did not hesitate to help the victims. “There were many wounded and there we took them out, between spurts of blood. Some with broken legs, others with arms …”, he recalls moved.
Roberto, another witness to the tragedy, assures that he saw the driver of the trailer – who is still unaccounted for after he fled – “get totally hurt, in a state of shock, fleeing.”
“But the worst thing is the people who come to prey, to search the dead instead of helping them. The first police officers were just filming for the morbid to upload it to social networks. I did not have time for that: I I came to help, which is what a human being should do, “he criticizes angrily.
“Everything went black”
Most of the migrants who traveled aboard the trailer were fleeing the poverty and violence of Central America, especially Guatemala.
From there, the relative of two of the hundred people injured in the accident has just arrived in Mexico this Friday. One of her two injured nephews is at the Gómez Maza hospital in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, where the most seriously injured were admitted, and at whose door the woman is patiently waiting for news.
“I found out what had happened on the news, and I came here. They have not let me in to see them yet, I have no information, but thank God they are alive,” says the woman who prefers not to reveal her name or much less details of the trip of his nephews, except that they are two brothers of 23 and 27 years, natives of Huehuetenango, whose goal was to reach the United States.
Meanwhile, in the municipality’s Red Cross clinic, which is used to receiving patients who are victims of aggressions or minor diagnoses, they face how they may have to attend dozens of the minor injuries from the accident since Thursday.
Fatigued by the heat, some rest on mats on the floor in the absence of beds. Many have an arm, a foot, or part of their head bandaged from injuries sustained.
Despite everything, some still have the strength to remember what happened and underline what led them to get on that trailer: to get to the US, whatever it cost, to seek a better life for themselves and their families.
“I was sitting, almost asleep among many people. When he turned over, Everything went black and I just saw everything spin. At the moment I saw a light, I opened my eyes and I was about 50 meters from the trailer. I don’t know how I got out of there, if I flew away … I don’t remember, “says Emerson Morales, a 23-year-old from Chichicastenango.
“When I got up, there were people lying everywhere, screaming … I saw people torn apart, destroyed, I saw one with the arm on the other side … I have blows, but thank God I’m fine,” he tells BBC Mundo.
The search for the missing
He is lying in a bed with a neck brace, but he worries much more than his injuries to know what happened to his cousin, who was also riding in the truck.
“I saw it thrown away [tras el accidente], I tried to write his name and mine on a piece of paper that I put in his pants because they already brought me here, but so far it does not appear in the list of names, we are trying to locate him, “he says without losing hope.
Mexican authorities suspect that some of those injured in the accident fled the scene and remain in hiding for fear that they could be detained and deported to their country.
Emerson is the only boy among his parents’ four children, and he says it makes him feel the responsibility of having to seek a better life for his family. That is why he was trying to get to New York, where he knows that life is not easy, but believes that “it is possible to work and make money, and that helps a lot.”
In Guatemala, he works in a call center for the minimum wage that he says hardly gives him options to support himself.
“Many of us are already born into poverty and we want to have opportunities to work to improve our lives. Therefore, the dream of getting there was present, for us and our families. No matter what happened, our goal was to get there,” he acknowledges.
In the past he already tried the dangerous way north, but was stopped in Mexico. Now he had tried again, leaving Guatemala with a small group.
On the border with Mexico it is easy to find many people in the same situation who seek the help of migrant smugglers who promise to take them to the United States in exchange for “an average of between 80 and 100,000 quetzals (from US $ 10,300 to US $ 13,000) “.
When they left their country they were taken to “a closed place, with many people” in the middle of the night, so they did not even know where they were. The next day they were mounted in the trailer of the tragedy, with which they intended to reach Puebla, in Mexico.
“The militarized immigration containment policy prompts migrants to seek more dangerous routes, generating tragedies like this,” criticized the NGO Centro Prodh in reference to the Mexican government’s strategy to stop the passage of migrants through its territory. “Migration alternatives and legal avenues are required to avoid tragedies like this one,” said UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency.
For their part, Mexico, the United States and some countries in Central and South America announced this Friday the creation of an Immediate Action Group against the networks of human traffickers that operate in the continent, whom they identified as responsible for the accident.
In the room next to Emerson’s, a couple is also recovering from their injuries and burns. She is Mexican and he is Colombian: they were not in the trailer, but they were riding a motorcycle right behind him and they became collateral victims of the tragedy.
“The images were very strong. We saw the people coming out of the inside, the screams could be heard.
It is not the same to see it in person than to see it on television, “says Melody Ramírez, a 17-year-old resident of Tuxtla who hopes that her fractured ankle will heal once the improvised bandage with cardboard sheets that they have put on it for now is replaced. .
His partner Bryan Hernández, also a migrant, knows very well what moved so many people to get into that trailer. “People seek dignity, not all of us have the same luck where we are born. They also have the right to a better life, and no one leaves their home for pleasure,” he says from the same bed he shares with Melody.
Attention to all the injured is possible at this clinic thanks to a large group of volunteers and a medical team that has not stopped working since Thursday night.
But also thanks to the donations from the population of Tluxtla, who, although more than accustomed to the passage of migrants through their town as part of one of the routes to the United States, has turned to the victims of this accident. .
“We understand that what has happened is due to abusive people, but injured people are not to blame and need our help“Luis Enrique, a young man who brings bags of clothing, food and hygiene products to the clinic, tells BBC Mundo after using his Facebook group of” memes from Chiapas “to call on his followers to make donations.
“This is our reality every day, we see migrants passing by here all the time, but seeing something so serious happen is like running into a problem that many of us try to ignore or minimize. Tragedies like this make us realize the Magnitude of the problem”.
Of the 34 injured who were admitted to this Red Cross medical center on Thursday night, there were 24 left on Friday night. Those discharged were taken by the immigration authorities to a shelter.
According to the Mexican government, survivors of the accident will be able to obtain “humanitarian visas” to remain in the country if they so wish.
But Emerson, whose only concern is finding his cousin, is not clear about what will become of him in the future.
“The authorities have not told us what will happen to us, if we stay, if they deport us … But if they offer me to stay here, I think I will return to Guatemala because the situation in Mexico is similar when it comes to living and earning money. So my idea was to get to the US “, he insists.
Next to him, a young Guatemalan woman sitting on a mat listening to his words intervenes to show that she is not willing to throw in the towel to achieve her “American dream.”
“And are we very close to Guatemala from here?” He asks journalists. “There is no way to follow the path for the US now, is there?”