Posted by: missopinion | August 25, 2009

The dream of a better life: Missing girls

Missing girls from El Salvador – Child Exploitation 25 August 2009 the online newspaper La Prensa Grafica of El Salvador identified two girls missing from their home in the municipal district of El Refugio; Maria Julia Mendoza Magaña and Reina Guadalupe Mendoza Ortiz.

It is reported that the two girls aged 15 and 13 respectively disappeared from their home on the afternoon of 12 August 2009 allegedly making their way illegally to the United States. In El Salvador the youth watch television programs like The Hills, the OC and other reality shows that follow the lives of the rich and want that life. These girls have more than likely being lured by the promise of a better life. I am afraid for them as the likely scenarios are not pleasant. They could have been lured for use in the child sex trade, been taken to brothels elsewhere in Latin America or worse raped and murdered.

Their mothers reported the girls missing to Police when they arrived home after attending an appointment and finding a note of explanation that read:

 “Mama, me voy. Reina Guadalupe Mendoza. La llevo en mi corazón’’ Mum, I am leaving. Reina Guadalupe Mendoza. I will carry you in my heart


“Mama, me voy de la casa a Estados Unidos con unas amigas y Lupita” Mum, I am leaving home and going to the United States with some friends and Lupita

I am posting this blog in the hope of two things:

1. It sheds light on one of the big problems in El Salvador

2. If someone should come across some girls claiming to be these missing girls that they help them by contacting the authorities as soon as possible.

The possibility that these girls have been lured with false promises of modelling careers or singing careers, working in high paying office jobs or in the fashion industry or simply being told you will work in hotels and make a lot of money for your families is high.

A lot of people in El Salvador have the misguided belief that everything is better in America and that the easiest option of getting to the US, seen by many as the land flowing of milk and honey, is to travel illegally or indocumentados. Many people see the poverty they are facing and believe that by contracting the services of people smugglers or coyotes their life will change for the better.

Most people who dream of emigrating from El Salvador to the US think that they will arrive and land a great paying job that will allow them to send money back to their families and raise their standard of living.

What many fail to realise is the harsh life-threatening reality that they will face in their attempt to cross the border into the US and even IF they make it across they face even harsher realities of living on the street for example, not having any employee rights or being paid the correct wage and not having any access of health facilities or education.

People often can pay anywhere from US$1000 to US$5000 for one attempt at crossing the border. The transaction often takes place whereby the person pays half the fee while in El Salvador then the coyotes will only advise the family if their loved one made it across the border once they pay the other half of the fee.

While I travelled in El Salvador in early 2008 I met and became friends with a young man, 25 years old. Eddie was one of the lucky ones that held a fulltime job, although only earning approximately $250 a month; he was still one of the lucky few who had a steady fulltime job. Eddie would make commentaries about how lucky I was that I had legally migrated out of the El Salvador while still a baby and how lucky I was that I had so many advantages that he and many of his friends had missed out on. Eddie dreamed of one day “wetbacking” it to the US. In January 2009 Eddie planned to illegally enter the US and that it would cost him $3000 for the attempt, I asked him where he would get that kind of money. Eddie stated that he and his entire family had been saving for a few years and he would be the golden son that would raise their fortunes by making it big in the US.

I sat Eddie down to find out more about this attempt. Eddie advised that the coyotes were friendly well-liked people that he could trust. They were experienced coyotes who had enabled some people he knew to cross the border into the US and now were sending money back to their families. The initial plan was that he and a group of 5 other people would be picked up from a secret location only divulged to them the day before departure and the journey would commence then. The coyotes would bribe many border patrollers in order to get across using produce trucks and then taken to a particular location along the US-Mexican border. Eddie appeared happy, excited and hopeful that his life would get better if he attempted to travel as an indocumentado.

I had no other choice but to talk Eddie out of it. The following conversation ensued:

Me: Eddie, lets say that you survive the trip to the US-Mexico border, what happens at the border? Like, what is the coyote’s plan once you are off the car, truck, or bus or whatever mode of transport got you there? the border is not a line in the sand that you can just walk across or its not just a couple of meters full of trees and shrubs that you can easily hide behind. Im just humouring you here, then I will open your eyes. What is the coyote’s plan for you all once you reach the border?

Eddie: Well the coyote walks with us to a safe point and then we cross by ourselves. I know its a big dangerous with all the poisonous animals and stuff.

Me: seriously, what is this safe point? Safe for whom?

Eddie: um.. I assume safe for us crossing we are paying for this after all so the coyote has to deliver right?.

Me: uhuh… let me ask you another question. Lets pretend you do manage to get across the border, then what? Who is waiting for you? Where will you stay? How will you eat? What are you taking with you?

Eddie: I am taking a backpack with some stuff and when I get across the border im calling a friend of mine that will pick me up, ill stay with him and get a job.

Me: Oh my Lord…ok… I am your friend and as you friend I am going to say some things that you will not like to hear, some things that may upset you, some things that you could resent me for but I am saying it to you in the hope you open your eyes and not do something you will regret forever.

Me: This is the dumbest thing that has ever crossed your mind. I don’t believe you have researched or thought this plan through at all, you haven’t thought about it and you have NO clue what you are getting yourself into. Where do I even begin.. firstly let me tell you that the “safe” spot the coyotes talk about is the safe spot FOR THEM to NOT get caught by the Americans. Whether you are safe or not is NOT their primary concern as far as they concerned they got you to the border as promised, they got their money the rest is in your hands. Travelling into any country illegally is not a bright idea, let alone trying to cross the border into the US. The US have immigration officers, border patrols and even civilian border patrollers who are armed. The US border patrollers have shoot to kill orders and are on patrol 24/7. You will be captured, they will hold all your details and record your finger prints etc and send you back to El Salvador where you will arrive back here with no job, no money and be worse off than before. Even if you still thought it was a good idea, the US economy right now is not at its best, if anything things will get worse and you will not find anyone to employ you as an illegal immigrant. I urge you to rethink this, you have nothing more than a highschool education, you have no money, no English, no connections, no legal documentation that allows you to be in the US or Guatemala or Mexico and if you get caught who knows where you will end up. You have a job in El Salvador, your family is well and you are young perhaps instead of spending $3000 of yours and your families hard earned money on this bad idea you should think about saving it for a rainy day or putting it towards your own home or even using part of it to apply for a residency in another country.

Eddie changed his mind a few days after this conversation. When I last heard from him in March of 2009 he thanked me for helping him make a better decision. Despite the economic crisis he said he still had his job and had heard that one of the people he was to travel with was killed at the border, the families of the 3 other people he was to travel with didn’t know of the whereabouts of their loved one and were financially at breaking point. Eddie will now be attempting apply for residency in Canada or the US legally.


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