Migrant tragedies accumulating in small Guatemalan town

By Esteban Biba

Guatemala City, Jul 17 (EFE).- A small indigenous town in western Guatemala is dealing with five migrant tragedies on a sad weekend during which the bodies of three minors and two sisters who died while seeking the “American Dream” were repatriated.

The three youngsters and the two sisters left the municipality of Nahuala, in Solola province some 150 kilometers (93 miles) west of Guatemala City, in June to look for better living conditions in the United States.

However, that dream turned into a nightmare for the five migrants and their families in a country where 59 percent of the population is poor and almost 35 percent live exclusively on remittances sent by relatives living and working in the US.

In Nahuala, a municipality with about 60,000 residents, the scenes of sadness began last Friday with the arrival of the body of Pascual Melvin Guachiac Sipac, 13, who suffocated in a tractor-trailer carrying dozens of migrants on a Texas highway on June 27.

Pascual’s body was the first of the 21 Guatemalans who died in the tragedy to be sent back to his homeland. US authorities say that he died along with 52 other migrants while being transported in a tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas.

Along with the 21 Guatemalans who died were Mexicans and Hondurans, all of whom were being illegally transported by people traffickers.

Local authorities believe the migrants must have been locked inside the abandoned trailer for a number of hours in what is considered to be the worst people trafficking tragedy in the US in recent decades.

Pascual’s father, Casimiro Guachiac, was in the US at the time of his son’s death and returned to the Central American country to bury his body.

“He was in the trailer and I began looking for him in the hospitals” Guachiac said Saturday in Solola.

The father had been in the US for a year, living in Michigan after making his own rough trip to seek the American Dream a year ago.

Meanwhile, Pascual’s idea was to get to the US to “study,” his father said, adding that his son “had many dreams.”

The gray casket containing Pascual’s body was interred at midday Saturday in the local cemetery after the family held a wake for him attended by more than 100 people.

On Saturday night, the bodies of two other minors who died in the Texas tragedy arrived in Guatemala and on Sunday they will be received in Nahuala for burial.

Juan Wilmer Tulul Tepaz, 14, and Jonny Tziquin Tzoc, 17, were also traveling in the truck that the people traffickers abandoned on the Texas roadway.

But the return of the bodies of the three teens is not the only tragedy the village is coping with at present, given that on Sunday night the bodies of two sisters who died elsewhere while trying to reach the US will be brought home.

Manuela Griselda and Carla Catarina Carac Tambriz, ages 19 and 24, respectively, were found dead on the banks of the Rio Grande along the Mexico-US border on June 19.

The young women’s remains will arrive in Guatemala on Sunday and will be buried in Nahuala, where the survival opportunities are limited and migration appears to be the only option whereby people can get out of poverty.

More than 300,000 Guatemalans make the decision to travel abroad seeking better conditions each year.

“Here you can only earn 60 or 75 quetzales (between $8 and $10) per day and that doesn’t even pay for your food,” Casimiro Guachiac said sadly.

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