For a Spanish language version, click here.
In a shelter’s kitchen in the border city of Tapachula, spurts of laughter rival the clang of pots crowding the stovetop. Mary and Karla mix the chipilin leaves into the corn masa, cook the chicken, and prepare the spicy tomato salsa, seemingly all at once. With a flurry of hands, they direct two helpers, and soon the earthy aroma of 300 steaming tamales wafts out of the kitchen, tickling the taste buds of the others coming in from the farm.
Mary and Karla are migrants. They stay in a shelter we partner with to provide a local farm with help and the shelter with fresh food. Thousands of refugees and migrants in Tapachula are not as lucky as Mary and Karla because they do not have a place to stay. In the first three months of 2023, Mexico received 37,606 refugee applications, over half of which were in Tapachula. Unhoused people used to sleep in one of the city’s three parks to get some relief from the heat and the sun. But this week, local authorities removed migrants from a park and cut down the trees. This time of year, the temperature in the city’s tropical climate hovers in the low to mid-nineties.
With the shelters overflowing, many people are forced to sleep on the streets. Some have tents or blankets, but most camp directly on the burning pavement. Since there is limited or no access to bathrooms or showers, people need to go to the river to bathe. They might spend their days working in the informal economy, or they might spend their days processing paperwork and waiting for appointments with the local authorities. By the time they return “home” to their place on the street, it is evening, and many of the local support organizations have closed for the day due to safety concerns. Coyotes and traffickers lurk in the streets, ready to prey on the most vulnerable.
Our community of peacemakers– our migrant friends working on the farm and staying in the shelter, our local shelter partner, the family who owns the farm, and you–saw a need and responded. Our migrant friends at the shelter are forging a bond of belonging with the migrant community staying on the streets by bringing meals harvested by migrants, made by migrants, for migrants.
The chipilin (think a cross between spinach and watercress, choc full of vitamin C) and the chicken used to make the tamales, along with the banana leaves they were steamed in, all came from the farm. The tomato and onion used in the spicy salsa were grown on the farm. The mango the tamales were served with–you guessed it–came from the farm’s orchard. In the spirit of Easter, our migrant friends prepared a feast, packed it to go, and with our partner, who has a security protocol in place, delivered 300 tamale dinners to migrants staying on the streets of Tapachula. Our community of peacebuilders went to three locations and also handed out 100 small food packs containing water, cans of tuna, and crackers, a source of protein for those with no means to cook.
For some, these farm-to-plate warm tamales served with refreshing sweet mango were their only meal of the day. They were also more than a meal. Preparing and sharing tamales was a way of saying, “We see you.” It was an act of generosity, reaffirming our shared humanity, and gave a sense of empowerment to those who have lost so much.
We’ll be doing this kind of distribution again, as well as implementing other projects to support our migrant friends where they are until they no longer have to flee violence or poverty. In our new blended family with Search for Common Ground, we will continue working to turn conflict into an opportunity to love anyway and find the common ground necessary for peace to flourish.
Peace moves at the speed of trust, and nothing builds trust like a shared success. Migrants staying in a shelter feeding migrants sleeping on the streets is a testament to the kindness and resilience of the human spirit. If you’d like to support those who have already lost so much, consider a donation today. Sign up to learn more about our peacebuilding work around the world. Sharing this post reaffirms that “We see you.”
Say “Yes!” to Peace Built on Shared Success