Its outfield is given over to showers and portable toilets. We count three outdoor showers with three dripping spigots each—two for men, one for women. Lines of people wait for each of the dozen toilets.
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It all seems pathetically little for 5, people. A boy, probably 4 or 5 years old, runs up to us.
As Keith talks to him, a young man in his mids joins the conversation. Danny says he came for a better job. As they talk, other young men join the circle. Danny wants to know if acquiring legal work papers could jeopardize his asylum claim.
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Questions start to pour in from the half-dozen men suddenly listening:. This back and forth goes on and on, as a crowd gathers to hear what Keith is saying. The problem is horrifying and obvious. Asylum is intended for people who fear persecution for their race, religion, nationality, social group, or political opinion, but the Hondurans are telling us about their desire for jobs. Rumor and speculation carried them thousands of miles to Tijuana, but now the dream is starting to fade.
Pressed up against the U. There really are only three choices: crossing the border illegally, accepting the work permits being offered by the Mexican government and finding a job in Tijuana, or climbing on one of free buses back to the Guatemalan border, courtesy of Mexico. News reports, often studded with pictures of activists in neon vests, have given the impression that the caravan is an organized effort.
But based on what we observe and our conversations with some of those who walked north, nobody was ever in charge or took on the responsibility of educating the migrants about just what they were headed for. On November 19, a crowd of angry Tijuanans marched through the city protesting the caravan. He says every candidate for office promises to represent the people but becomes part of the corruption as soon as he is elected. Back in San Diego, we settle down in our hotel.
Hotel luxury feels shamefully far away from sleeping and coughing on a flooded baseball field. Instead of sloshing around Tijuana again, we drive up to Los Angeles. According to the census, , Hondurans are living in the United States and 42, of them live in L.
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Keith tries to talk with two men at the table next to us. One outright refuses to talk. Many of the people we met on this trip were reluctant to talk to reporters, and a high percentage of those who would refused to give their names. Our less taciturn neighbor is originally from Honduras but now lives permanently in Los Angeles.
He is full of despair about the caravan. We are very much not wanted here.
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We pay and leave, stepping back out into the drizzling rain. The Honduran consulate occupies a small suite in a tall downtown office building. The staff work quickly behind a glass window. He acknowledges that Honduras has problems and that a lot of Hondurans have been misled into thinking that asylum is possible in the United States. The next day we head back across the border into Tijuana and learn that the migrants are moving to a new camp. Buses arrive at regular intervals to drop off the migrants.
As before, the police have set up an exterior perimeter of chain-link fences to separate the migrants from the locals. The new camp has the appearance of a Spanish fort—high, whitewashed walls, accessible only through a pair of tall, rust-colored gates. Inside, the ground is entirely concrete. Those without tents have grabbed coveted spots in the porticos along the wall. Keith and I talk to some of the locals. Eating tacos in a restaurant the size of a walk-in closet, we chat with the owner. He strikes similar notes to so many of the other Tijuanans we have encountered: compassion for those seeking a better life followed by resentment of these particular people who are causing so much trouble and bad press.
But they have drawn a line at the recent caravan. We head back across the street to see more of the interior of the compound. Why did they come and what do they hope for?
A large crowd gathers to sing hymns and line up for dinner. But a dozen people sit separately, heads in their hands, many of them crying. They are waiting to board a bus back to Honduras.
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Teenagers kick a soccer ball around on the far side of the courtyard, and a truck full of wooden cargo pallets pulls in through the gate, setting off a mad dash. It is dark by the time we get back to San Diego. Roberto Valdez, like most of those whose stories are told in Chasing the Harvest , came into the fields after the dust of the years of upsurge had settled.
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A few, such as Rosario Pelaya, had been in the ranks of the rebellion or witnessed its descent. Each would have to contend with the conditions as they now encountered them.
In the narratives, all who come north from Mexico there are several U. Silvia Correra marries at fourteen to escape her difficult life in a small village near Puebla. When her husband is robbed of money borrowed to buy fireworks to sell in Acapulco, she comes north across the border with him and her young son. Fausto Sanchez, from a large family of impoverished Oaxacan farmers, leaves his southern Mexican village to work as a migrant in the Mexican state of Sonora. When work in Sonora is slow, he joins fellow workers on a trip north of the U.
At the age of nine, Beatriz Machiche begins crossing the border at San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, with her family to work in the lemon orchards in Arizona. By age fourteen, she joins the farmworker struggle in the Coachella grape fields. All these stories are part of what has been a mass migration north, rooted in a history of colonial domination, exploitation, and racial oppression. Farming in California as we know it today has its origin in the mid—s, when U. A white supremacist society proclaimed its right to exploit nonwhite immigrants as its Manifest Destiny.
Successive waves of mainly nonwhite immigrants supplied the labor to feed this so-called California dream. It was not until the early s, after previous waves of immigrants from Asia were banned or proved inadequate, that California and Southwest growers turned decisively to Mexico. Mexican workers first were brought north along the railroad routes built from the interior of Mexico to the U.
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Over time, a plundered Mexican economy became a source of colonized labor on which California agriculture has fattened itself ever since. And, it should be noted, around 80 percent of the U. Oscar Ramos, as the undocumented child of a migrant family, lived in fear of being taken away from his family who worked in Hollister and lived in a local labor camp. She [the babysitter] got put in their van.