About a month ago I was in a taxi, and as the usual line of small talk questioning goes, taxi drivers usually ask me what I am doing here in El Salvador. I never lie to avoid conversation, because I learned early on, that every little moment counts in my new line of work. So I tell them, I work with migrants at CARECEN. And then the stories come...
Last month I met a man who wanted to migrate to the US, and so on the way to my home, I told him about his human rights as he is in transit. I wished that I had brought the little pamphlet with me that explains his human rights, but for some reason I didn't have any, so I told him to call our office. I don't know if he ever did.
This morning when I woke up, I was feeling a little hurried, as I had an early meeting to talk about the work I will do for the next six months or so. When I was packing my bag for the day, I noticed the little yellow cartillas (pamphlets) sitting on the floor, and so I grabbed a few and tossed them into my bag, thinking that they might come in handy.
My day continued on, and was a regular manic Monday with just a hint of frustration, because I felt like I wasn't being productive enought with the extra chaos of a new schedule that has come into my life. Nevertheless, not being too hard on myself, I decided to see a film with friends, and catch a cab later on.
This evenings taxi ride was another important one, because I met a man who will be leaving within the week. He explained that it's been really hard for him and that he's decided to go North to meet some family in New York, who can get him a job flipping burgers. He's planning on traveling alone, but will meet a coyote (a paid guide) in Mexico. I asked him how much the coyote costs and he told me $2,000. My taxi driver doesn't know the coyote, and later asks me if learning english is hard. I reach into my bag and pull out a cartilla, which I so carelessly tossed in my bag 14 hours early in the day. I flip throught the pages as he drives, and I chat with him a bit about his human rights and the places where he can find a meal and a place to stay while traveling. I also explain that he can call our office for more information or more cartillas for his friends.
My taxi driver this eveing is leaving a country that he loves, to continue on a trip that will be very dangerous. He will probably hold that cartilla very close to him in the coming weeks, and ask he tells me about Santa Ana (where he is from), I say a little prayer for him, because I know it's not going to be easy.
This man is 27 years old, and he is leaving his family for a job in the states that pays minimum wage. He's risking his life to enter into a country that says he is not welcome, and vigilantes on the border will tell him in many ways. He asks me if New York is beautiful, and I tell him that it is, but it's expensive. And when I leave the car this evening, I extend my hand and tell him to be careful. He says "Rest well Megan." And I wish for him to do the same.
I think that 10 minute conversation was the most important thing I did all day.