MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – Carlos Mauricio Mejía, a migrant from Honduras, spent several days in the San José de Huehuetoca shelter in central Mexico before it closed in November. The shelter, which offered undocumented migrants passing through Mexico a place to eat, sleep and shower, was the third to close in the area since July.
Twenty days before arriving at the shelter, located 67 kilometers (42 miles) north of Mexico City, Mejía had said goodbye to his wife and his 5- and 8-year-old children in Honduras. It wasn’t the first time that this 26-year-old tried to migrate to the United States via Mexico in order to earn a better living to support them.
During his first attempt in January 2012, he says a local gang kidnapped him in Reynosa, a city on the Mexican-U.S. border.
“I was kidnapped for 15 days there,” he said while resting in the shelter. “Thanks to God, I was able to escape, I and two more companions.”
He said that a man he met in Mexico City lied to him that he was also a migrant, then lured him into a trap.
“He worked for the people who kidnapped me, and he left me where they took 1,500 pesos from me,” he says, the equivalent of $115. “They beat me up, and they wanted more.”
Mejía wasn’t the only migrant the gang kidnapped.
“There were 67 of us kidnapped, all migrants,” he said. “And there were about five Mexicans, and they hit them the hardest. There were some seven women whom they took out during the day to rape them. They took out about three whom we never saw again.”
Mejía managed to escape from his kidnappers.
“Thanks to God, one weekend that they started to drink, it enabled me to escape through the window,” he says.
Mejía tried to conceal his anguish as he recounted every detail of his story. The shelter, which offered a safe space for migrants to stay during their journey north, closed last month.
Several shelters for Latin American undocumented migrants traveling north to the United States have closed during recent months in central Mexico following tensions with locals. Residents blame migrants for increased insecurity in their neighborhoods. But migrant defenders cite xenophobia, organized crime and an inefficient government for local insecurity and intolerance of migrants. Migrants say shelters offer a safe haven during their pursuit of a better life for their families.
Some 140,000 Central American migrants traverse Mexico to reach the United States annually, according to Amnesty International.
During the transit through Mexico, migrant workers are the victims of forced disappearances, murder, sexual exploitation and discrimination, among other human rights violations, according to a 2011 report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States.
Among the most recent aggressions against migrants crossing Mexico, Amnesty International reported during October 2012 the mass kidnapping of 40 Central American migrants, allegedly by a Mexican gang. It also cited the reactivation