From December 1 through the 18, the thirteenth “Caravan of Mothers of Disappeared Migrants” will be held, crossing the border near Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas to begin their 4,000 kilometer journey along the migrant route looking for their disappeared sons and daughters. The caravan will cross through 12 states and 22 towns in Mexico, raising awareness of the disappearance of their loved ones and of the violence that thousands of migrants face crossing through the country. As they travel, the caravan of mothers will denounce some of the main issues that underscore the extreme insecurity that migrants suffer when they cross borders.
The resurgence of the far right in the United States and in Europe is fomenting a hateful and xenophobic rhetoric that favors anti-immigrant policies. The popularity of this ideology occurs in the context of a migrant crisis caused by the devastating consequences of the wars and interventions of powerful countries in weaker ones. The effects of these interventions –– combined with civil wars, economic insecurity, and climate change –– have resulted in the displacement of millions of people and numerous humanitarian crises on the borders of the most wealthy countries in the world.
According to the United Nations, approximately 500,000 people cross Mexico’s southern border every year. The majority come from Central America’s Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras), a region stricken with widespread violence and economic inequality. The economic insecurity –– combined with the impact of large-scale resource extraction –– create a situation of structural violence and forced displacement. This economic precarity occurs in a context of acute violence in countries which have highest rates of homicide and gendered violence in the world.
When migrants flee these conditions, they encounter serious threats in their journey across Mexico. Beset by criminal groups and corrupt state institutions, migrants risk being kidnapped, extorted and trafficked, among other grave human rights abuses. These cases of routine violence are revealed by the discovery of massacres and unmarked mass graves, by the disappearance of thousands of migrants and Mexicans alike.
The violence along the migrant route is worsened by its invisibility, factually and politically. For this reason, these actions of searching, demanding justice and protest by the mothers of the disappeared migrants are of the utmost importance in shedding light on this crisis. The risks of travel across Mexico have increased in recent years as the Mexican government, in collaboration with the United States, has tried to impede the flow of migrants reaching the northern border through the militarization of the territory. These tactics of persecution, detention, and deportation –– combined with the threats from corrupt officials working for criminal groups –– have increased the vulnerability of migrants in transit. Just as in the case of disappeared Mexicans, there exists near total impunity in the cases of abuse and disappearance of migrants in Mexico. The absence of political will and the corruption of local authorities forces the family members of the disappeared migrants to carry out the difficult work of searching and demanding justice for the missing.
Across the globe, women are fighting against a violent patriarchal order. From domestic violence and violence within communities, women are opposing wars and challenging systems of injustice. The demand of justice for the disappeared Mexicans and Central Americans has been the work of mothers and wives, who joining together, now represent a political force.
The Caravan of Central American Mothers will meet with the mothers and family members of disappeared Mexicans. In doing so, they will construct and strengthen solidarity between the Mexican and Central American women who are demanding information, justice and the end to impunity. The Caravan represents an opportunity to show the consequences of anti-immigrant policies, making visible the pain of the mothers and raising awareness that these people are just as important as any other, that they have family members of who love and depend on them.
Traveling though Mexican states and communities stricken by violence and the lack of economic opportunity, the caravan of mothers will shine a light on the violence and repression that affects migrants and Mexicans alike. Mothers will follow clues about the whereabouts of theirs sons and daughters in hopes of finding their loved ones. Along the way they will build friendships with Mexican mothers and relatives who share their struggle against injustice.
We invite the Mexican community to support the Caravan. We reiterate that there will be media presence, not only to publicize the work of the caravan and the issues it is shedding light on, but also because their presence ensures visibility, places pressure on authority, aids in locating people sought by the family, and prevents people from forgetting the magnitude of this problem. For this reason, we request that news agencies, correspondents and national and international reporters broadly cover the work of these mothers as they search for their children who they last heard from somewhere within Mexico.