I saw a miracle this morning in Juarez, Mexico. This miracle is a person—Angeles. It’s her smile, and the shine of her hazel eyes in the middle of the darkness. The miracle is her survival story, her hope, and her fierceness.
After finding dozens of migrant friends staying in the streets of Juarez, close to the Mexico-US border, Preemptive Love’s Mexico team spent time meeting those braving the cold. We provided 100 soft blankets to our new friends, to have a little protection from the cold weather and damp ground.
“Do you want a blanket?” we ask a Venezuelan woman, Angeles. Angeles softly replies “Yes, yes, please!” and smiles, her hazel eyes shining while she touches the soft orange blanket we give her.
When we’ve handed out every blanket, I look for Angeles among the dozens and dozens of asylum-seeking friends on the sidewalk. I find her close to a truck, and we sit together in a parking lot close to the border wall, feeling the warm touch of the sun and the strong smell of the ground. That smell reminds me of everything happening in this place: the sweat and the urine of our migrant friends who have been forced to eat, sleep and urinate in the same place in the streets of Juarez while waiting for a chance to cross to the United States.
Angeles, like other migrant friends, has stayed on the sidewalk for days, suffering pain each night while she goes to sleep. Her body has suffered terrible indignities on the journey and has not been able to recover completely.
But her life was not always like this. “When people look at us, they do not know what we have faced. I never imagined that I would live this…that I would have to sleep in the streets. I studied. I was a public servant. I was a police officer!”
Angeles tells me about the years she worked at a penitentiary for women in Venezuela. She later studied to become a police officer, and she achieved it. She proudly shows me a photo in her phone, a photo of her smiling while wearing her special black anti-riot uniform. Happy and strong. Her hard work made her dream real.
Angeles was a committed police officer who soon learned the dangers of her profession. “I investigated a case of drugs. And we managed to seize the drugs and catch the traffickers.” Instead of being protected by her ranks, she was offered over to the drug traffickers. Running away was her only chance to save her life.
Fleeing Venezuela was difficult. The trip north to seek asylum in the US was excruciating.
She moved through Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama—including the deadly jungle of the Darian Gap. “I’m a miracle,” she says. She was so close to death so many times in the jungle but somehow survived. She still wonders how…or why.
“I saw a family die in the river,” Angeles tells me. An elderly woman accidentally let go of the rope that crossed one of the rivers. Her son, daughter-in-law, and grandchild jumped into the waters to try to save her, but the current was too savage—all of them disappeared under the water.
Through the journey in the jungle, insects ravished every traveler. Angeles remembers the loud screams in the night of a man who suffered so badly from insect bites on his feet, he shouted “Kill me! Kill me! I can’t bear this pain.” But none of the migrants could kill him, so his agony continued.
[Trigger warning. The next paragraph contains accounts of sexual assault. If needed, you can skip over the next paragraph and pick up Angeles’ story in the paragraphs following.]
Nature was not the only danger. “I saw many men with long guns in the Darian,” she mentions. Angeles remembers a man in agony along the road, shot in one lung. He had tried to protect his wife and baby from being raped, but all of them–including him–were raped by a gang in the jungle. In all, “10 women were raped, 6 men and a child… a child of 6 years were murdered on a hill, close to where I slept.” Angeles’ voice breaks. After witnessing the pain and death, “I urinated, I could not control myself.” She passed out and does not remember what happened after. At the border of the jungle, a humanitarian organization provided her with medical care. “I was given 27 liters of serum. 27 liters!” She shows me the needle scars. The doctors cried when they saw that I was recovering, that I could walk.”
Tears fall from Angeles’ eyes and her voice breaks again. My ears are filled with the sound of her sobbing. She continues “Now, after living through all this, we are told that we cannot cross the border by foot. We are so close and we cannot cross.”
“People say that I’m strong. People say ‘don’t give up’ but they don’t know what I have faced! It has been so hard.” I ask her if I can hug her. She replies with a yes. I hug her and feel her tears on my shoulder.
“You’re strong,” I tell Angeles “but it is fine to feel as you feel now. It’s fine to cry.” It’s all I can say.
In time, Angeles calms and wipes away her tears. She touches the soft blanket that we’ve given her. It seems to comfort her. She knows all that she has achieved: a police officer training course, the investigation against drug traffickers, and successful arrests. She crossed the Darian Gap and survived.
Angeles, and friends just like her, are the reason we are committed to showing up for our asylum-seeking friends at the US-Mexico border. This is not the life Angeles worked so hard for, but it is the life she is overcoming. We meet these friends with hot meals and blankets, with time to listen and a shoulder to cry on. These measures don’t make everything right with the world. But it makes it possible for our friends to carry on. When you donate to serving those on the border, it gives them the strength to go on to change their stories.
“I will continue in this fight,” Angeles says. “I’m a miracle.”