Family members of Guatemalan migrants involved in a deadly truck crash in Mexico have said they are desperate for news of their loved ones and feel forgotten by governments that offer few opportunities and no protection on the perilous route to the United States.
It was just four days ago that Domingo Yobani Raymundo Mateo, 18, left his small village of Chajul, an Ixil Maya community some 260 kms (160 miles) from Guatemala City, for his second attempt to reach the US. This time, his family sold a house to pay for his journey with the hope he would secure work after crossing the border.
Keep readinglist of 3 items
Instead, they received word that he was killed just one day later when a truck trailer carrying more than 160 people overturned on a curve outside the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez in Mexico’s Chiapas state on Thursday.
At least 55 people, mostly from Guatemala, were killed, in one of the worst death tolls of migrants in Mexico in the past decade.
“A friend of my son who travelled with him survived and he informed us that Domingo was dead,” his father, Pedro Raymundo Caba, told the news agency Reuters in Chajul. “(His friend) said he closed his eyes and covered his face with a towel that he carried in his backpack.”
The incident has put a spotlight on the dangers migrants face on the road to the US border, often at the hands of human traffickers known as coyotes. Dozens of migrants have died from violence or accidents in Mexico over the past decade.
Relatives of migrants killed or injured in the accident said they are desperate for information about their family members and get few answers from the government.
“What we need is help so that Domingo’s body can return home to bury here in Chajul. The government still does not tell us anything, they do not answer calls,” his mother, Teresa Mateo Mendoza, said during an interview at her modest home with no electricity, where she is raising four other children.
Lucrecia Alba’s husband, Celso Escun Pacheco, 34, was among the dozens of people injured when the trailer overturned.
He left his home in the Guatemalan highlands days earlier, kissing his wife and two young daughters goodbye before setting out for the dangerous journey to the US, where he hoped to find a well-paying job.
At the family’s home in Pamezabal, a tiny village in Santa Lucia Utatlan, a municipality in the province of Solola, Alba said the number of deadly incidents involving migrants made the family feel left behind by state authorities.
“It is not the first time that an accident of this type has happened. I believe that no government is interested in the high risks because this has happened many times,” Alba said.
“We need the governments of Mexico and Guatemala to raise awareness – migrants need more security on the road,” said Santos Juan Alba, Lucrecia Alba’s uncle. “People are leaving because there are no opportunities here.”
‘Help me find my son’
The accident underscores the extreme conditions, including severe poverty and gang violence, that migrants from Central American countries flee.
Dominga Tiniguar, who lives in a village called Xepol in Guatemala’s Quiche province, has spent days in anguish, awaiting news of her son, a farmworker who planned to earn money in the United States before returning to Guatemala.
“He was going to Chicago to work so he could build a house here in Xepol and buy a piece of land,” Tiniguar said, holding a photo of her son, Elias Salvador Mateo Tiniguar.
Elias had paid a coyote $3,800 and set out for the US border, Tiniguar said.
Tiniguar said the family saw a photo from the truck accident and recognised Elias laying on the ground from the blue shirt he was wearing – but they still do not know if he is dead or alive.
Guatemala has not yet publicly identified the 55 people who were killed.
“They give me no information. They don’t answer the phone,” Tiniguar said. “Help me find my son.”
Following the accident, Guatemalan officials urged the US to invest in the region to boost development. The US, Mexico, Guatemala and other countries pledged to crack down on international people-smuggling networks they blamed for Thursday’s accident.