Young couple who died in semi-truck went to US ‘to have a different life and achieve goals’

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Children set out hoping to earn enough to support their siblings and parents. Young adults who made sacrifices to get into college, thinking it would lead to success, left their country disillusioned. A man who was already working in the US and was returning to visit his wife and children decided to take a cousin with him when he returned to the US

As families of more than 60 people packed into a semitrailer and leaving on Monday in Texas began to confirm their worst fears and speak out about their relatives, from Honduras to Mexico a shared narrative of striving for a better life began to take shape.

53 of those migrants left the sweltering heat on the outskirts of San Antonio had passed away on Wednesday, while others remained hospitalized. The lengthy process of identification continues, but the families confirm their losses.

Among the dead were 27 people from Mexico, 14 from Honduras, seven from Guatemala and two from El Salvador, said Francisco Garduño, director of the National Immigration Institute of Mexico.

Everyone put their lives in the hands of smugglers. The news of the trailer full of corpses caused horror in towns and villages used to seeing their young people abandoned trying to flee poverty or violence in Central America and Mexico.

In Las Vegas, Honduras, a city of 10,000 people about 50 miles south of San Pedro Sula, Alejandro Miguel Andino Caballero, 23, and Margie Tamara Paz Grajeda, 24, believed his degree in marketing and her degree in economics would open doors in business Stability.

In this undated photo by Karen Caballero, her son Alejandro Miguel Andino Caballero and his girlfriend Margie Tamara Paz Grajeda pose for a photo at an undisclosed location in Honduras.

/AP


The young couple has been together for almost a decade and has been applying to companies in recent years. But again and again they were refused.

The pandemic struck, hurricanes devastated the northern part of the country and they became disillusioned.

When a relative of Andino Caballero living in the United States offered to help him and his younger brother, 18-year-old Fernando José Redondo Caballero, fund the trip north, they agreed.

“They think people with a higher level of education need to get more job opportunities,” said Karen Caballero, the brothers’ mother. “Because they work for it, they study.”

Caballero felt she could no longer hold them back, including 24-year-old Paz Grajeda, who lived with Alejandro at his mother’s house, and whom Caballero called her daughter-in-law even though they had not married.

“We all planned it as a family so they could have different lives, so they could achieve goals and dreams,” Caballero said.

When they left Las Vegas on June 4, Caballero accompanied them to Guatemala. From there, the young trio were smuggled across Guatemala and then Mexico in articulated lorries.

“I thought things were going to be fine,” she said. “Who was a little scared was Alejandro Miguel. He said: ‘Mom, if something happens to us.’ And I told him, ‘Nothing’s going to happen, nothing’s going to happen. You’re not the first nor the last person to go to the United States.'”

Caballero last spoke to them on Saturday morning. They told her they had crossed the Rio Grande near Roma, Texas, were on their way to Laredo and are expected to head north to Houston on Monday.

She had just gotten home Monday night when someone told her to turn on the television. “I couldn’t take it,” she said upon seeing the report about the trailer in San Antonio. “Then I remembered how my sons had traveled, being in trucks since Guatemala and all the way into Mexico.”

Caballero was able to confirm her death Tuesday after sending her details and photos to San Antonio.

Alejandro Miguel was creative, cheerful, known for hugging everyone and being a good dancer. Fernando José was enthusiastic and noble and willing to help anyone in need. He imitated his older brother in everything from his haircut to his clothes. They were football fanatics and filled their mother’s house with screams.

The deaths of her sons and Paz Grajeda, who was like a daughter, is devastating. “My children leave a void in my heart,” she said. “We will miss them very much.”

Nearly 400 miles away, the prospects for Wilmer Tulul and Pascual Melvin Guachiac, 13-year-old cousins ​​from Tzucubal, Guatemala, had been considerably less.

Family and friends gather to mourn the deaths of their loved ones who died in the US in Nahuala
A woman holds photos of 13-year-old Pascual Melvin Guachiac and 14-year-old Juan Wilmer Tulul Tepaz, cousins, who arrived with other migrants in San Antonio, Texas, in the small village of Tzucubal in Nahuala, Guatemala, April 29, 2022.

SANDRA SEBASTIAN / REUTERS


Tzucubal is an indigenous Quiche community of about 1,500 people in the mountains nearly 100 miles northwest of the capital, where most make a living from subsistence farming.

“Mom, we’re leaving,” was the last message Wilmer sent to his mother Magdalena Tepaz in her local quiche on Monday. They had left their home on June 14th.

Hours after hearing the audio message, a family neighbor said there had been an accident in San Antonio and they feared the worst, Tepaz said through a translator.

The boys became friends and did everything together: play, go out, even plan to go to the United States, although they don’t speak Spanish well, said Melvin’s mother, María Sipac Coj.

As a single mother of two, she said Melvin “wanted to study in the United States, then work, and then build my house.” She received a voice message from her son on Monday that they were leaving. She deleted it because she couldn’t hear it anymore.

Relatives who organized and paid for the smuggler were waiting for the boys in Houston. These relatives told her of her death, and the Guatemalan government confirmed this on Wednesday.

Wilmer’s father, Manuel de Jesús Tulul, couldn’t stop crying on Wednesday. He said he had no idea how the boys would end up in Houston, but never imagined they would be put in a trailer. His son had left school after elementary school and joined his father in clearing farmland for planting.

Tulul said Wilmer sees no future for himself in a city where modest homes are built with remittances from the United States. He wanted to help support his three siblings and one day have his own house and land.

The smuggler demanded $6,000, of which he paid almost half. Now all Tulul thought about was getting his son’s body back and hoping the government would pay for it.

In Mexico, cousins ​​Javier Flores López and Jose Luis Vásquez Guzmán left the small community of Cerro Verde in the southern state of Oaxaca, also hoping to help their families. They were on their way to Ohio where construction jobs and other work awaited them.

Flores López is now missing, his family said, while Vásquez Guzmán is hospitalized in San Antonio.

Cerro Verde is a community of about 60 people that has been largely abandoned by youth. Those who remain earn a meager living weaving sun hats, mats, brooms and other objects from palm leaves. Many live on as little as 30 pesos a day (less than $2).

For Flores López, now in his 30s, leaving Cerro Verde years ago for Ohio, where his father and brother live, wasn’t the first trip to the US-Mexico border.

A cousin, Francisco López Hernández, said he was back home to briefly see his wife and three young children. Vásquez Guzmán, 32, decided to go with his cousin on his first trip across the border, hoping to reach his eldest brother, who is also in Ohio.

While everyone knew the risks, scores of people from Cerro Verde had made it safely across the US-Mexico border with the help of smugglers, so it came as a shock, said López Hernández, when he learned that Vásquez Guzmán was among those those stuck in the trailer found were abandoned near auto junkyards on Monday. The family believes Flores López was too, but they are still awaiting confirmation.

Vásquez Guzmán’s mother had planned to get a visa to visit her hospitalized son, but on Wednesday he was transferred from intensive care and she was able to speak to him over the phone. She decided to stay in Mexico and await his recovery, said Aida Ruiz, director of the Oaxaca Institute for Migrant Attention.

Mexican families are angry at the fate of migrants trapped in a Texas truck
Virgilia Lopez, the mother of Javier Flores, reacts during an interview in San Miguel Huautla, in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, June 28, 2022.

JOSE DE JESUS ​​CORTES / REUTERS


López Hernández said most people rely on those who made it to the US to send them money for the trip, which typically costs around $9,000.

“There are many risks, but for those who are lucky, the wealth is there to be able to work and make a living,” he said.

Two men were charged in the incident could face the death penaltythe Justice Department announced on Wednesday.

Texas native Homero Zamorano, the suspected truck driver, was arrested Wednesday on criminal charges related to his alleged involvement in the deadly smuggling campaign. If convicted, the 45-year-old Pasadena resident faces life imprisonment or the possibility of the death penalty, according to the Justice Department.

Christian Martinez, 28, was also charged after federal law enforcement officials executed a search warrant on a cell phone belonging to Zamorano. According to the DOJ, investigators found communications between him and Martinez discussing the smuggling attempt.



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