Lauren Markham reports at The New Republic on the tidal wave of migrants, mostly young men in their twenties and thirties, from India, Pakistan, and other countries from Africa and the Middle East heading for the United States via the Mexican border:
By 7 p.m., the sun had set and groups of young men had begun to gather inside a small, nameless restaurant on a narrow street in Tapachula, Mexico. Anywhere else in the city, a hub of transit and commerce about ten miles north of the Guatemalan border, there would be no mistaking that you were in Latin America: The open colonial plaza, with its splaying palms and marimba players, men with megaphones announcing Jesus, and women hawking woven trinkets and small bags of cut fruit suggested as much. But inside the restaurant, the atmosphere was markedly different. The patrons hailed not from Mexico or points due south but from other far-flung and unexpected corners of the globe—India, Pakistan, Eritrea, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Congo. Men, and all of the diners were men, gathered around tables, eating not Mexican or Central American fare but steaming plates of beef curry, yellow lentils, and blistered rounds of chapati. The restaurant’s proprietor, a stern, stocky Bangladeshi man in his thirties named Sadek, circulated among the diners. He stopped at one table of South Asian men and spoke to them in Hindi about how much they owed him for the items he’d collected on their tab. The waitress, patiently taking orders and maneuvering among the crowds of men, was the only Spanish speaker in the room.
Outside, dozens of other such men, travelers from around the world, mingled on the avenue. They reclined against the walls of restaurants and smoked cigarettes on the street-side balconies of cheap hotels. They’d all recently crossed into the country from Guatemala, and most had, until recently, been held in Tapachula’s migrant detention center, Siglo XXI. Just released, they had congregated in this packed migrants’ quarter as they prepared to continue their journeys out of Mexico and into the United States. They had traveled a great distance already: a transatlantic journey by airplane or ship to Brazil; by car, bus, or on foot to Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia; through Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua; on to Honduras, Guatemala, and into Mexico. Again and again, I heard their itinerary repeated in an almost metronomic cadence, each country a link in a daunting, dangerous chain. They’d crossed oceans and continents; slogged through jungles and city slums; braved detention centers and robberies; and they were now, after many months, or even longer, tantalizingly close to their final goal of the United States and refugee status.
“The largest groups tend to be from India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Congo,” but also Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, and Syria.
They usually arrive in Brazil, through Peru, up the Darién gap connecting Colombia and Panama, north through Central America – and Mexico has increasingly become a destination.
Read the full article.
Note: extracontinentales means “from outside the continent”