REYNOSA, Mexico – Salvadoran Iris Evelyn crossed Mexico on foot with her two young children to flee her gang-affiliated boyfriend and difficult economic circumstances in a bid to reach the United States, a goal that is now just 20 meters (yards) away.
“It’s been very hard,” Evelyn, 21, told EFE at a migrant shelter where she is staying with her two-year-old son Justin and her five-year-old daughter Monica.
“We suffered a lot entering Mexico. In the state of Chiapas we were violently robbed,” she said. “There were times when we didn’t have food for the kids.”
Evelyn’s troubles began in the Salvadoran municipality of San Juan Opico, where her boyfriend joined the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, gang.
The young man turned jealous and possessive, preventing Evelyn from even leaving the house and “mistreating, beating and threatening” the children.
Evelyn waited for her chance and then fled home with her children and her 19-year-old cousin, Daisy Cruz, who traveled by bus to Guatemala and then made the long journey by foot to the Mexican border municipality of Reynosa, in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.
Both women, who earned just $5 a day as domestic workers in El Salvador, are now staying at that city’s Senda de Vida shelter for Mexicans deported from the US and Central American migrants.
The shelter is on the banks of the Rio Grande and just a few yards from US soil, a distance fraught with difficulties and dangers that can only be navigated by hiring a people smuggler.
If luck is not on their side, it will mean a step backward and deportation to their homeland with potentially fatal consequences.
According to London-based human rights group Amnesty International, nearly 400,000 people, most of them from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, trek across Mexico annually en route to the US, although many never reach the border because they are detained by immigration authorities or fall into the hands of criminal gangs.