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Stories in Oaxaca, Mexico: Echoes of Resilience

Migrants gather in front of the shelter that gives support for those displaced from their home countries.

The shelter for migrants in Oaxaca, Mexico is witness to many stories of desperation from those who left their homes and communities due to economic, political and other reasons. Sr. Angelica Oyarzo shares her observations about how the Centro de Orientacion del Migrante provides spiritual and psychological support to these families.

It has been more than a month since I arrived in Oaxaca, Mexico City. The day after my arrival, I started working at COMI (Centro de Orientación del Migrante), a shelter for migrants that aims to provide support and orientation to those who, for different reasons, have been displaced from their home countries.

At the Center, migrants are welcome to stay for two nights to rest weary bones, wash away the dust of distant roads, and nourish both body and soul. Showers are cool, meals simple but hearty. And in quiet corners, migrants exhale—a moment to gather strength for what lies ahead.

Medical assistance and psychological support are also offered when needed. Despite their tiredness, however, some of them look for a job because they need to make a little money to feed themselves and continue their journey.

COMI team: a volunteer doctor, two social workers, the cook, one of the migrants and, in the center, Sisters Aracelli Tovilla Galindo (director) and Esperanza Pillar (administrator).

 

Silent Battles for Survival

Even though migrating should be a free decision made by the individual or by the family, most of the people who move away from their country are compelled to do it. They leave behind families, memories, and the familiar scent of home. Each story echoes the same refrain: survival at any cost.

During that one month, I met many people, and all of them shared very similar experiences. Some of them have suffered extortion and threats, others have fallen prey to gang violence and organized criminal activities.

Supporting their families on meager wages was a struggle. Others decided to take their families with them and migrate to shield their children from gang recruitment. Their narratives resonate with themes of betrayal, abuse, and vulnerability. Yet, against all odds, they persist—a silent rebellion against despair.

Within the walls of the Center, we hold space for their stories. We listen to men crying out of desperation—voices echoing frustration, loss, betrayal, abuse, loneliness, and emotional and physical exhaustion. They endure mistreatment at the hands of police officers, bus drivers, “coyotes,” and even their fellow travelers.

A bus ticket to Mexico City typically costs 500 Mexican pesos. However, for migrants, who are identifiable by their accents, it can soar to 2000 or 3000 Mexican pesos per ticket. Sadly, this payment often proves futile because upon reaching a police station along the route, migrants are abruptly ordered off the bus and forced to continue their journey on foot simply because they are migrants.

In other instances, if the police allow them to proceed, they demand additional money for each family member. Worse yet, some officers seize all the money and valuables the migrants carry, including phones, watches, and jewelry. 

The plight of migrants has transformed into a lucrative enterprise for unscrupulous individuals. Amid this harsh reality, we provide warmth and bear witness to their unyielding spirit. 

 

Threads of Courage and Hope

In the shadow of their harrowing experiences, the migrants’ journey becomes a haunting nightmare—a trauma that etches itself into their very existence. Their narratives form a tapestry woven with threads of courage, survival, sacrifice, and unwavering resilience. Through their eyes, I see the forgotten corners of our world—places where hope blooms defiant against insurmountable odds.

 

COMI’s team tries to alleviate the suffering of migrants, helping them to achieve the dream of a better life for themselves and their families.

Pope Francis encourages us to embrace compassion, recognizing that we are all migrants on this shared journey through this prayer:

“Merciful God and Father of all, wake us from the slumber of indifference, open our eyes to their suffering, and free us from the insensitivity born of worldly comfort and self-centeredness. Inspire us, as nations, communities and individuals, to see that those who come to our shores are our brothers and sisters. May we share with them the blessings we have received from your hand, and recognize that together, as one human family, we are all migrants, journeying in hope to you, our true home, where every tear will be wiped away, where we will be at peace and safe in your embrace.”

 

Sr. Angelica Oyarzo, SSpS – Province of Mexico
Sr. Angelica was in the USA Province and was sent to Mexico.

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