Died May 14, 2019, Texas
Wilmer's story HERE.
The seventh soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vázquez, Age 2
Died May 14, 2019, Texas
Wilmer's mother brought him to the U.S. to get him medical care for a condition that left him unable to walk. Wilmer and his mother Hilda left home in March to make the journey to the U.S. He became ill in Mexico and crossed into the United States with a high fever and difficulty breathing. Diagnosed with pneumonia and other complications at a children's hospital, Wilmer died about a month later.
Wilmer's story HERE.
The sixth soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Roxsana Hernandez-Rodriguez, Age 33
Died May 30, 2018, New Mexico
Roxsana said she had fled Honduras in part because of the discrimination and violence she faced for being transgender. (She was gang-raped by four MS-13 members and contracted HIV. ) She said in an interview, "Trans people in my neighborhood are killed and chopped into pieces, then dumped inside potato bags."
Hernandez was one of roughly 25 transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals who joined the annual caravan of Central American migrants heading to the US border. She crossed at the San Ysidro Port of Entry near San Diego and was later transferred to a CPB facility in NM for transgender detainees. She succumbed to symptoms of pneumonia, severe dehydration, and complications associated with HIV and later died from cardiac arrest.
Roxsana's story HERE.
The fourth & fifth souls in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Óscar Alberto Martínez-Ramírez, 25 yrs.
Angie Valeria, 23 mos.
both of El Salvador
Drowned together in the Rio Grande River, June 24, 2019
Working at a pizzeria in El Salvador, Óscar made approximately $350 a month supporting his wife Tania Vanessa Ávalos, and their young daughter, Valeria. The three lived with his mother, Rosa Ramírez, in a two-bedroom home outside of San Salvador. She gave them the larger room, but they wanted more than a life on $10 a day.
Frustrated at being unable to present themselves to U.S. authorities and request asylum, Oscar swam across the river with his daughter. He set her on the U.S. bank of the river and started back for his wife, but seeing him move away the girl threw herself into the waters. Óscar returned and was able to grab Valeria, but the current then swept them both away.
Oscar & Valeria's story HERE.
The third soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Mariee Juarez of Guatemala
Age: 19 mos.
Died May 10, 2018, New Jersey
(after being held at ICE detention in Dilley, TX)
After experiencing inhospitable violence in her home country, Mariee's mother, Yazmin Juárez, was faced with the difficult choice of staying in Guatemala and likely facing death or fleeing to the United States to apply for asylum. The decision to embark on such a journey was a remarkably dangerous one with no guarantee of obtaining legal status in the end, but as Yazmin recounted, the crushing instability of their home country made staying put impossible.
When the two arrived at the border in Texas, they were quickly funneled into the U.S. immigrant detention system to wait for their case to be processed. They were both examined by a doctor and found to be healthy. The two were then transferred to a facility in Dilley, Texas where they were crammed into a filthy, crowded cell with sick children. Mariee became sick within a week of their detention with a cough and runny nose and grew steadily worse; contracting a high fever and diarrhea and vomiting.
Yazmin stood in line for hours, begging the guards for help. When Mariee was finally seen, she was given antibiotics after a quick examination. Yazmin begged the clinicians to run additional tests and allow her daughter to stay in a more sanitary area until she recovered, but she was sent back into their overcrowded cell with the other sick children.
Shortly thereafter, the two were released from custody and allowed to stay with family in New Jersey until their asylum claim could be heard in court. Upon their arrival, Juárez rushed her daughter to the hospital where it became clear that her condition was far worse than diagnosed. Mariee died six weeks later, on the day celebrated as Mother’s Day in Guatemala.
Mariee and Yazmin's full story HERE.
The second soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Felipe Alonzo Gomez, Age 8,
Died Dec. 24, 2018, New Mexico
Felipe was excited to come to America. His father, Augustin, thought taking Felipe to the U.S. would give him more “opportunity,” and was focused on escaping the poverty of their hometown. Felipe hoped to have his own bicycle.
The boy’s mother, Catarina Alonzo Perez, said she spoke with her son the day before they arrived at the U.S. border. “He wasn’t sick on the way; he wasn’t sick here,” she said through her stepdaughter in the Mayan language known as Chuj.
His body was returned to Guatemala.
More of Felipe's story HERE.
The first soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal-Maquin, age 7
of Raxruha, Guatemala.
Died Dec. 8, 2018, in New Mexico.
She and her father traveled 3,000 miles from Guatemala seeking a better life. She jumped when her father told her she could come with him to the U.S. She thought she might get her first toy, or learn to write. She got her first pair of shoes right before the trip. They were apprehended the night of Dec. 6 at the extremely remote port of entry at Antelope Wells, New Mexico, by Border Patrol agents, just 2 days before she died. Jakelin died of sepsis.
Jakelin's story HERE.
* La Corua was a large water serpent that lived in springs of water and protected them. It had a cross on its forehead and cleaned the veins of water with its teeth. According to Sonoran folk beliefs, if one killed the Corua, the spring would dry up. Vanishing water sources and economic pressures in Mexico have pushed the folktale of La Corua to the dustbin of history on both sides of the border.
Serpents have long been sacred to indigenous peoples throughout the Americas and are respected as guardians of water sources and bringers of rain.
* Beliefs and Holy Places - A Spiritual Geography of the Pimeria Alta - James S. Griffith, University of Arizona Press, 1992