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José Luis Hernandez loved to play the guitar. He had a natural gift for it, his family said.
The 17-year-old often played in his native Honduras, but he had to leave the instrument behind when he decided to leave for the United States in order to try to make money for his struggling family. He made his way to Mexico and boarded La Bestia, that notoriously dangerous network of freight trains that crisscrosses Mexico and that people ride to get to the United States.
“My accident was in Mexico, on the way to this country,” said Hernandez. “I was so hungry, and had been traveling so long, I fell off. It took my arm, my leg and part of my other hand.”
Hernandez, now 30, was badly mutilated when he fell off one of the trains and had to have his arm and his leg amputated. He wears a glove over his remaining hand to hide that it, too, was mutilated. Now he can only sing.
Still, he’s one of the luckier ones, in a way.
“Others didn’t get help in time,” he said. “They bled to death. They are part of the huge list of Central Americans who vanished from existence as a consequence of looking for a better life.”
Hernandez is part of a group of men, all originally from Honduras but now living in Maryland, who visited San Diego to raise awareness about the dangers and risks migrants face on the long trek from the violence-plagued “Northern Triangle” — Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — and to try to help some of his countrymen, the so-called Honduran Eight, who have been in immigration detention for weeks but given no date to meet with a lawyer.
“There’s so much suffering,” Hernandez said. He and the rest of the group have enlisted the help of Border Angels – a nonprofit that works with migrants – to disseminate their message and try to track down the Honduran Eight. (Border authorities have not disclosed where they now are.)
“They need help,” said Enrique Morones, director of Border Angels. “They want to visit their colleagues that are in detention — they want to make sure they have attorneys so they can explain their situation. The reason that a lot of these countries are in the situation they are — a lot has to do with U.S. policies and involvement, so here’s a living example.”
All four men visiting San Diego are in the country on humanitarian visas, awaiting their court dates for asylum hearings. The earliest court date for their hearings, thanks to a major backlog in the immigration system, is 2019.
KPBS also spoke in detail with Hernandez about the group’s San Diego trip – check out that interview here.
Oaxaqueños in SoCal Denounce Violence
Six people have been killed in clashes with police in the southwest Mexico state of Oaxaca, and dozens more (including police) injured. Members of the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, a teacher’s union, blockaded roads in and around Nochixtlan in Oaxaca state; federal police retaliated with guns, rubber bullets and tear gas.
The Mexican government denies that federal police were armed. (Link in Spanish)
The violence began when two high-profile union leaders were arrested last week and accused of corruption, charges that union members say are politically motivated, according to the BBC.
In San Quintín, Baja California, farm laborers marched on Saturday in support of the Oaxaca teachers. Farther north, Oaxaqueños from San Diego to Los Angeles announced their support of the teacher’s union and denounced state-sponsored violence in Mexico. At least 150,000 people from Oaxaca state live in California, according to the California Institute of Rural Studies.
Fires, Zombies and Father’s Day Through the Wall: More Border News
• A wildfire near Potrero exponentially jumped in size Sunday, shutting down portions of Highway 94 and prompting mandatory evacuations along the border. The fire was fed by dry brush and record-breaking heat. (Cal Fire)
• Tijuana has a new mayor … for now. The PAN candidate, Juan Manuel Gastelum, was confirmed Saturday, winning by more than 95,000 votes. His competitors plan to demand an annulment and a re-vote. (San Diego Union-Tribune)
• A meeting between Homeland Security officers and “suspected high-level drug dealers” in the tony neighborhood of Eastlake turned into a violent struggle, then a shootout that left one dead and five people arrested. The meeting was part of a federal anti-drug trafficking initiative. Federal agents haven’t been forthcoming about details about the initiative.
• Work may be beginning again soon on the 70-mile stretch of the notorious “Impossible Railroad.” The so-called Desert Line, which would provide a link between San Diego and Tijuana, has been a boondoggle since crews first broke ground on the railway in 1907.
This month, the Metropolitan Transit System’s board of directors approved a binational agreement to finish the cross-border railroad. The link, if finished, would ease congestion as trains transport materials to and from border manufacturing centers, called maquiladoras. (Times of San Diego)
• #WorldRefugeeDay: Migrants and refugees continue to arrive in Tijuana from all over the world to request asylum in the United States. Tijuana shelters are helping house them until U.S. officials decide their fates. (KPBS)
• Violence plunged after art and planning collective Torolab opened La Granja Fronteriza, a “knowledge farm” that offers art residencies, cooking and music classes and other “urban renewal” projects to the troubled Tijuana neighborhood of Camino Verde. (Christian Science Monitor)
• Father’s Day was celebrated across international lines Sunday, as separated families spoke to one another through the fence at Friendship Park in San Diego and Parque de la Amistad in Tijuana. The event was organized by Border Angels. (Zeta Tijuana; link in Spanish)
• Mexico is out at the Copa América Centenario after a brutal loss to Chile in the quarterfinal Saturday, with a final score of 7-0 at a game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. The loss came after Mexico beat Chile 1-0 at a pre-tournament friendly at Qualcomm Stadium on June 1. (MLS)
• Mysterious hooded men, bloodied bodies and chaos shut down Tijuana’s Avenida Revolución last Friday, but it wasn’t a violent uprising or state repression this time — just actors shooting scenes from zombie series “Fear the Walking Dead.” Much of its third season has been shot around Baja California. (Milenio; link in Spanish)