By the time we got to the edge of the Suchiate River between Guatemala and Mexico, it had become a real gully washer. But that didn’t stop the makeshift rafts that bring people and merchandise across the river. This southern border has to be one of the most porous populated borders in the world.
The rafts are each made from two tractor inner tubes, and the owners say they can each carry 25 “quintales,” which would be bushels and which I imagine might be equivalent to about 50 pounds. That’s a lot of weight for a raft. The big ones can bring 15 people.
Few countries have a more ambiguous and even schizophrenic policy toward undocumented migrants than Mexico. For example, when we left the town of Arriaga this morning, which is near the Chiapas state border with Oaxaca and is a railhead where migrants hop trains northward, our driver pointed out the state office where investigators ensure that the rights of migrants aren’t violated. Moreover, in Arriaga we conducted interviews at the Casa de Migrante, a Catholic-run migrant center that is crawling with undocumented travelers from Central America.
Yet between Arriaga and Tapachula, near the border with Guatemala, we passed no less than seven checkpoints on the highway. Three were operated by migration agents, three were staffed by federal police and one by the army.
So are migrants welcome or not? I’ll keep you posted.