Migrants stranded in southeast Mexico taking part in bamboo crafts program

By Juan Manuel Blanco

Tapachula, Mexico, Nov 27 (efe-epa).- Migrants from Central America, South America and Africa who are stranded in southeastern Mexico amid the pandemic are creating handicrafts and artwork out of bamboo as part of a program aimed at providing assistance to vulnerable people.

A total of 300 migrants from Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Haiti and different countries of Africa are participating in the project, according to the federal Welfare Secretariat’s office in Tapachula, near the Mexico-Guatemala border.

They are paid a salary of around 2,500 pesos (about $125) every two weeks that helps cover their housing and food expenses while they await regularization of their immigration status.

The work consists of cutting, scraping and shaping a species of bamboo known as otate, or guadua (which grows locally), to make knives, spoons, forks, pots, cups, chairs and tables for later donation to vulnerable families or for inclusion in a cultural project.

Tapachula is known for its Siglo XXI migrant detention station where hundreds of migrants are currently being housed. Despite stepped-up enforcement of Mexico’s southern border and the pandemic, people continue to arrive there in a bid to reach the United States.

Honduras’ Gises Flores Valle coordinates the group of artisans and also supervises seven other migrants who make kitchen utensils or any other handicraft that might be requested.

“Sometimes a set or two sets per day depending on the design,” the young man said, adding that the products are high quality and can be used in any kitchen.

Some of the migrants have already spent three months in the program, which receives federal funding, while others only recently began participating.

Martin Eduardo Aguilar Reyna, coordinator of the workshops, said the courses also provide an opportunity to work with migrants from a cultural standpoint, noting that among the contributors are a film director and a muralist.

Marco Ortiz is a Cuban migrant who currently is doing manual labor and also is working on a film project to tell the migrants’ stories and their reasons for fleeing their homelands.

He said all aspects of the film, including the characters and all other elements, will come from the migrants themselves.

The idea behind the project, which is still under development and also will use recycled objects, is to offer a different – and much more positive – view of migrants.

Tapachula for months has been one of the cities under greatest pressure from migration, and in that regard this project is aimed at combating racism and discrimination among the local population and overcoming mistrust from the local business sector in a bid to bring about more economic opportunities.

Saul Baños Castelleiros, who arrived from Cuba, said this project provides assistance and services to migrants like him who arrived at Mexico’s southern border with nothing.

And for the community at large it reinforces a message of unity and the idea that all countries are essentially the same and should fight for a better world, he said. EFE-EPA


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