On the roads of Peter

Sent by Sandy Price, SND

The priest Pedro Pantoja Arreola Posada del Migrante leads Bethlehem, whose work for more than a decade in Saltillo,  Mexico will be recognized on Oct. 12 in Washington and receive the International Award Letelier Moffitt Human Rights, Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).

He will be the second Mexican to receive the prestigious recognition only after Bishop Samuel Ruiz and Human Rights Center of San Cristobal de las Casas, with which to honor the railroad defense of him and his team of human integrity.

Peter arrived in Saltillo when the city learned of the first migrants killed: Delmer Alexander Barahona and José David Pacheco “El Moreno”. On May 25, 2002, Hondurans 16 years old were shot while they slept near the railroad tracks after traveling thousands of kilometers from the capital to Central Coahuila.

Then, another immigrant, Ismael, was stoned to death. Bishop Raul Vera decided to reinforce the work already carried out two nuns in a house that opened in favor of migrants and called a pastor who knew the ways of social work and former fellow at the Pontifical Mexico: Pedro precisely.

The priest presided at the hostel Emmaus Ciudad Acuña, dedicated to protecting the rights of migrants in their difficult passage through Mexico. Peter says that, at the invitation of Vera, did not think twice.

“It was urgent, there was no option and no time to prepare a project,” says convinced. He and the sisters received a warehouse over the years, put up a hostel to date has received more than 50 000 migrants, almost all Central and usually take the path of the Gulf, in contrast to Mexicans, who prefer the Pacific, or mountain, more deserted.

As a new moral responsibility, Peter left the inn the name that the nuns had given him: Bethlehem, in honor of the first migrants Mary and Joseph the carpenter pregnant, and although the date has seen how crime and corruption have become impassable the way for Central Americans, with their horror stories, do not forget the names of those killed three migrants.

“They’re history. One has to remember that because it is encouraging all of the passion that is carried in this struggle, a struggle for life, not only to feed them, but to not be killed,” said Peter also pastor of the church of Santa Cruz, near the lodge.

In fact, he and his team were the first to denounce the kidnappings and killings of migrants by organized crime, something that would peak with the 72 shot horror of San Fernando and the hundreds of bodies found in mass graves in Tamaulipas.

That defense has a cost. So today Posada del Migrante Bethlehem lives, like his guests, an ordeal of acts of intimidation, to tell the priest, has put volunteers in the home at the same level as the victims.
But this, far from intimidating the religious, the more determined.
“This is my life,” says, “and the same commitment to feel the other is required of others.”

Intensive training

It’s lunchtime and Peter presides over the previous sentence with guys mostly wearing brown shorts and shirts, suspenders, jeans and tennis have been provided at the shelter as their traveling clothes, some two to three weeks of use on the train that carries them, known as The Beast, simply ceased to be such.

These men mostly, literally survivors because the risks had to overcome, come with good humor, his talks with singing tone, without missing a laugh. They wash their clothes and dishes, make food and collaborate on tasks. If not busy, play soccer, participate in workshops and consulting.

Denim and blue striped shirt, without religious image in the chest and only in his left ring given to him by a goldsmith Oaxaca, Pedro oversees food, succulent appearance, and confirmed the service accepts and chat in the courtyard of the hostel Landin located in Colonia, almost to the outskirts of Saltillo.

Followed by the dogs adopted at the inn: Migra, Chapin, as they are known to Guatemalans Catracha and Guasalo, terms Honduran priest takes the seat next to the shelves where they left their backpacks over 50 migrants there housed at the time. Beyond are a few concrete tables outside on the travelers to play checkers with soft tops, a wall, card phones, and beyond the cultivation of cactus, the enclosed area and wide with mattresses and bunk beds.

“It has fallen sharply since the number of kidnappings,” said the father, still looking for migrants, who whisper in small groups about their experiences and desires. Peter is tall, looks strong at 67, has gray hair and soft-spoken but emphatic who has seen almost everything in a matter of injustice.

Years ago, in Bethlehem came to sleep 350 people. Today, many no longer come just for the kidnappings and extortion, so that people in the shelter wondered where they will be going, as the figures crossing the southern border has not decreased.

Peter was born in San Pedro de los Gallos, Durango, and was one of eight children born to a peasant, to break through, they moved to work at a ranch near Parras, Coahuila.

Immediately identified with the social vocation of the Jesuit mission, at age 11 Peter entered the seminary, although he was the father from whom he learned the first lessons of verticality.

“Dad, somehow with little preparation but with a very large sense, he spoke of justice and human rights,” he recalls excitedly.

“It was my first picture honest, benefactress and humanitarian solidarity.”

As the same seminar promoted, while the study, paid work, Peter spent seven years operator trailers carrying coal, which allowed him to see the world, but nothing like the four months spent picking grapes in the Valley Death by the famous advocate of Chicano Cesar Chavez, Barack Obama recently located at the same level as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

“It was 1965, I was 20 and I remember him in his camp, along with his faithful dogs Strike and Boycott and his banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe, great personality, chutzpah. I did not need to know about your energy on defense of Chicanos in front of the obscenities that were being virtually the last years of the Bracero Program.

“He marked my life, because I talked to people about what I needed: faith.”

More in 1968 would mark his attendance at the Conference of Latin American Bishops in Medellin, where the presence of Pope Paul the Sixth would open the ways of the religious to social causes. Peter reminds the attendees Samuel Ruiz, Sergio Mendez Arceo and Llaguno Pepe and the millionaire Rockefeller at the meeting asking if there were communists.

Those were for Peter and a half years of Latin American expedition where he himself was present at the stroke of Ecuador (where incidentally he was imprisoned for participating in student movements) in the simulated soccer war between El Salvador and Honduras.

Then sent to Saltillo, participated in the strike and Cifunsa Cinsa companies, the labor movement faced paradigm, he says, to the chieftainship of that city and that eventually he would be betrayed by President Luis Echeverria and the Secretary of Labor Porfirio Muñoz Ledo .

“There were many reprisals, laid off many workers,” says Peter, a Masters degree in Social Science from the UNAM and the University of Nanterre in Paris.

“Then I went to Monclova for metals and the coal, where it lacked the accident, and I had the privatization of Altos Hornos in the late 80’s when Salinas took power and began the exodus of migrants to the United States.”

Difficult road

Alberto Xicoténcatl, chief operating officer of Bethlehem, describes the father as a serene man who, in difficult times, often listen to your team and do what they consider their members.

“It is also the first to face when they make mistakes, because migrants are their life mission. The most important thing,” says Alberto, 31, born in Puebla.

The path of Peter for travelers begin when 40-thousand workers who depended on Altos Hornos, after the cuts barely reached 20 000 and economically depressed region, so people started to want to cross over.

“They were caravans of migrants,” says the priest. “La Plaza de Acuña was filled with people who, like birds in trees, waiting for opportunities and be there in the seeming paradise of maquiladora wage of survival, or the other side.

“There was much outrage and extortion by the police because they began to traffic in American hotels, the streets and brothels.”

So much for the father to persuade migrants to rest at home to Emmaus he opened them, and know their rights before resuming their journey. It was there, years, called him to ask Raul Vera to go to Saltillo to address atrocities against migrants, both Mexican and American, which began to leave their region when it was hit by Hurricane Mitch and multiplied the misery .

One of the atrocities they suffered was to be launched by the guards of the train, so many end of the arm or leg amputees.

Peter was responsible for raising funds for prosthetics, as well as get them to heal their wounds.

“The project of the house and here in Saltillo was not to make a house any more, but provide comprehensive migration, which has many aspects: the legal status, humanizing the reconstruction of victims, of litigation by migrants welfare, work and organizer of the implants. ”

Arrival was not easy, however. They were accused of giving refuge to gangs, criminals. Later would come the kidnapping, torture and murder. Stories that Peter come cascade: the migrants in a safe house in Tenosique that by refusing to give the phone numbers of relatives, a classmate saw the kidnappers began to live with machetes and tear parts thrown into a pit of cement that had crocodiles or food that day for the detainees.

“I recognize also the story of another classmate, who spoke three days for bringing sadness,” says Peter looks down. “The 12 men had raped and wondered if it was a person and what they would explain to return to her husband and children, what they would talk.”

The priest mentions another migrant who tore her head and spent three months in intensive care. In Bethlehem learned his name again and use language that I had forgotten.

Alberto, a psychologist who graduated from the Universidad Iberoamericana, has other stories reported by migrants that Peter does not quote this time: Pregnant women who are beaten to an abortion and whose products are left in front of the kidnapped migrants, men who are forced to fight each other with mallets to death and eating the remains of those killed, babies at birth are separated from their parents and never return to find them.

“These are cases that concern us. Now this is not exclusive to Borders: I can say that across the country this is happening with migrants, which are piled up over a hundred and months. A hell” .

Alberto says that if you want to understand why migrants suffer this level of cruelty should be referred to a very complex story that he met seven years ago. A mother and her son, 45 and 18 respectively, arrived in Bethlehem with a group of Central Americans. They all came to have been kidnapped by common criminals and, as recounted their experiences, learned that they, mother and children were forced to have sex, otherwise they would kill them both.

She begged the child to accept what happened, and so the group saved her life and could leave the kidnapping.

“I remember his companions who were told this, very sorry, as mother and son only nodded, very concerned.

“If this happened seven years ago, now we understand why what happens happens, the state has allowed this and gave him a silver platter to crime to do what he wanted with the migrant population. Even fun.”

The highest point so far have been the slaughter of 72 migrants, and clandestine graves in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, and others. Situations that were reported by Peter and his team many years ago, through testimonies immensely violent, but the governments have never taken into account.

“Someone who grew allowing this cruelty and that the perpetrators walk free: police, public officials,” warns Peter and disengages with indignation.

“What we are experiencing is a state crime, crimes against humanity, genocide, holocaust. Mexico must be brought to an international tribunal, because he wiped his complicity and corruption.”

The Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights Felipe Gonzalez has supported the work of years of Peter, the veracity of the testimonies gathered by Bethlehem and questioning how the federal government has allowed this to Central American migrants. Where were you when the shooting occurred, nasal, kidnapping and rape.

“Because the show did not end criminal here,” the priest, referring to the discovery of mass graves with hundreds of bodies, some already identified, “but continued in the countries of origin of migrants, where the Mexican government has sent coffins empty, other bones or even rotten meat.

“The box comes to town, people open the coffin … It’s a joke. Why did Mexico do this?”.

The priest goes on. Later barbarism attributed to governments intent on enrichment, never resulted in a comprehensive human development, a sustainable human rights and ethics.

“We’ve also been a subject people, manipulated, disgusted,” he adds. “Sometimes religion has been complicit in this, sometimes not, as in this case, but given this rule we do not have to wake the deep values: freedom, dignity.”

The priest considers migration unmasked wine and everything. Hence, no matter of chance seems that priests like him, Raul Vera, bishop of Saltillo, Miguel Concha Malo, director of Human Rights Center Fray Francisco de Vitoria, Javier Avila, pastor of Creel, and Alexander Solalinde, who commands the work of the Casa del Migrante Hermanos del Camino, Oaxaca, speak out and demand and commitment.

“We’re trying to be faithful to the Gospel that for a long time he was unfaithful,” he smiles slightly. “We lost time. The Medellin opened for us a channel of justice and preferential option for the poor, without shame or fear.”

He says the atrocious reality and criminal threats and attacks to the lodge (strange people hanging around, throwing stones and trying to enter), theft of equipment or calls in the morning, do not doubt God. Dialogues night and dawn with him to strengthen their hope.

“One speaks with courage, of course, but knowing that He is listening and understanding, if not, I would have vented the harp,” he smiles.

It has moments of despair or hobbies that they do separate from Bethlehem is a relationship, emphasized, which can not be removed because it is life.

“Here are told the volunteer that if you will not feel the love and commitment to the migrant to defend, not used to being in the house. Here there will be that I do not understand, make me sick, nothing. Here you have a deep identification, otherwise we are not going to believe, we will be about puppets academic human rights advocates but one flesh. We must live what they live and suffer. ”

So much so that practically the team of Bethlehem and at the same level of casualties for the attack: some German volunteers were threatened by gunmen and the Embassy decided to withdraw.

“I hurt them (volunteers), because they are young, the me can corner, but so far we move forward. There is something romantic, but a reality.”

All for migrants

Never having received official support, Peter yearns to expand the facilities of the hostel, have an audience and strengthen their social awareness project, because it hopes that all migrants who come to the shelter to grow, to become advocates for other hikers and back to Central America rebuild as mayors, ministers, teachers.

In Bethlehem migrants are not only eating, sleeping and washing, but also receive psychological, psychiatric and thanatological and legal support.

Albert explains that the house does not depend on the employees, but migrants.

“No time limit of stay depends on each case, the need of physical, mental. Depending on each case will be the residence time. Some people last a day, only eat, bathe or sleep a sleep, and others for up to eight months. ”

The Mexicans were limited a little more time, since they have more options for shelter. A migrant is not.
Of the 58 households of migrants in the country, the Saltillo is now one of the most beleaguered. They have recorded 54 incidents of harassment and threats, each with its respective claim, but to date has not been a single penalty or charge capture.

“Mexico is failing its international obligations because everyday puts at risk not only migrants, but human rights defenders.”

Moreover, both Peter and his team argued that the new immigration law does not stop the crimes and gives value to human beings.

“Mexico needs to understand that it must open its doors to the caravan hungry, because we belong to the same Mesoamerican region,” he says.

“Today more than ever, migration is a historical phenomenon: there are 300 million people out of their countries. They are the camps of Libya, Somalia, Sudan, are the tribal struggles in Africa, deaths in the Mediterranean. I myself was there to receive the Moroccans in Spain and France to Algeria. ”

He says no one can hide that Mexican migration, which is living, is that the Mexican government has been unable to combat violence disappear.

“We took so long, so, so, we have traveled many international bodies and, after 10 years, just as it begins to open the Mexican state when other countries became more rapid, being in our country’s history of migration has more than 80 years. ”

Even account in Bethlehem born children of migrants. Last October, two girls were born, and five years ago, a little.

“Here we have raised,” he says proudly, “and this adds another element: the birth of migrant smaller Latin America.”

Sosa Denis is not a child, but just stop being. He’s 19, comes from Tegucigalpa and yearns to reach his family in America. I almost do not succeed, was kidnapped by men who said Zetas and who escaped in some neglect. “I was afraid, of course, but luckily I could leave. Back in my country there is nothing, so I decided to come. It took me weeks, but I want to be with my family, but not for this house would have no directions.”

The comment is not casual: Denis shows pants that came to the hostel: pure shreds. “Here they treat me well, thank God they exist.”

Peter passes from one side to another. However, his team of Alberto, Paola Ramos, Elisa Guerra, Eduardo Calderon, Jose Luis Manzo, Javier Martinez, religious and Leticia Arguello Guadalupe Tenorio, as well as volunteers, we have taken as well: like books fashion and the review process, all kinds of music, from Shakira to Heavy and operas, gossip artists, making omelets, the country walks and talk about the qualities of others.

“The father is a sensational person, so we are there because we believe in what he does, the passion and truth that exerts his life,” said Alberto.

In October, Peter and the team that makes it possible to Bethlehem in Washington will be recognized for his work on behalf of human rights. The priest takes modestly recognition, although he knows that this voice is heard reporting stronger.

“For me the greatest joy is when we called when a migrant is already in the United States. That’s all we ask. Know that came with it and are already working tells us that we have fulfilled the task and that a migrant day return to his homeland to rebuild. “