Only a relatively short but seemingly extended journey from Puerto Escondido lies a quiet beach town stitched together by one main road. Often described as being bohemian and laid back, Mazunte thrives on the curiosity of tourists and its fame for being a Pueblo Magico. Its waves are ravenous and immediately hemmed to its long dusty road which offers no shade or solace from the blinding sun. In this road, is where I found Cesar, a gentleman whose persistent energy keeps him bouncing on his toes and moving to and fro. Despite our foul attitude fueled by the exhausting sun and aching hunger, Cesar maintained a very friendly demeanor with my parents and me, offering freshly caught fish at prices that could be bargained and a genuinely kind smile. It is after our picky ordering that Cesar, for reasons attributed to the friendliness prevalent in Latin America, sat down with us to chat. One shortened conversation led to a deeper discussion, one that Cesar spilled even more by the minute. Here, I share his story, his brave retelling of an incredibly difficult journey pending an ending.
Original interview in Spanish, but I have translated the interview into English too.
Cesar, 28, Mexican.
Cesar: Cuando crucé los Estados Unidos, yo crucé con una gran ilusión, tan grande. Yo quise sacarla adelante a mi mamá, porque a mi papa le quemo un rayo la pierna. Yo en esa necesidad mire de irme a los Estados Unidos, a los 10 años, para ayudarles a ellos.
When I crossed the United States, I crossed with a great illusion, very great. I wanted to help my mom because my father had been struck by lightning and burned his leg. I, with that necessity, looked into going to the United States, at the age of 10, to help them.
Yo: Cuanto te cobro el coyote?
Me: How much did the coyote charge you?
Cesar: En ese tiempo, me cobraron 17 mil pesos mexicanos [hoy son $889.270 US]. Son 6 dias de camino, cargando maleta, comida, agua, ropa, algo para proteccion de suelo, tenias que llevar nylon y ajo por las víboras, y algo para taparte en el desierto. Tenias que llevar tres bolsas negras, de las grandes, para que te metieras adentro de las bolsas, y permaneciera tu calor por el frio de la madrugada. Yo cruze, sin temor a nada, dije “voy a cruzar, nada mente cruzo, llego a los Estados Unidos, y voy a sacar a mi familia adelante”.
At the time, I was charged $17,000 Mexican pesos [presently $889.270 US]. It is 6 days of walking, carrying a bag, food, water, clothes, something to protect yourself from the ground, such as nylon and garlic because of the viper, and something to cover yourself in the desert. You had to take three large garbage bags, so you could sleep inside and retain your body heat, and remain in your body heat because of the morning cold. I crossed, without any fear, I said “I am going to cross, just cross, I’ll arrive at the United States and help my family.”
Yo: Y que paso?
Me: And what happened?
Cesar: La segunda vez, ahi fue donde los de inmigración, me dieron una golpiza, tan fuerte tan fuerte me quebraron esta parte de aquí [señala la sien del lado izquierdo], y toda esta parte parecía gelatina. Tenia 20 anos.
The second time, that is when immigration [immigration officers], hit me, so violently [signals left head temple] they broke this part, and this whole area looked like gelatin. I was 20 years old.
Y yo entregue pruebas en la inmigración de Tucson, de Phoenix, y de Las Vegas. Y gane un caso. El caso que a mi me acusaban [anteriormente] era un caso de exaltacion. Ese caso era unos de los delitos más graves de los Estados Unidos. Cuando me llevaron a las cortes, me llevaban con las cadenas, con cajas aquí [señala muñecas] y las cadenas tenían que bajar a mi cintura y pies, y de ahi a mi cintura una pelota así [señala el tamaño de una pequeña bola de boliche] de puro hierro. Era una sola acusación, pero por yo cruzar ilegalmente se convirtió en algo más mayor. Entonces yo metí pruebas, el que me ayudo fue el del ICE, el de home immigration [no se pudo encontrar esta oficina que él menciona], y los que protegen los derechos humanos. Entregue todas esas pruebas, fotografías, al inmigración y al juez. Y gane mi caso.
I submitted proof to the immigration offices in Tucson, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. I won my case. The case I was accused of [prior] was an exaltation case. That case was one of the gravest crimes in the United States. When I was taken to courts, they took me with chains, with cuffs here [signals wrists] and chains that ran down my waist to my feet. On my waist, I wore a ball this large [the size of a small bowling ball] of pure iron. It was only one accusation, but because I crossed illegally it became something greater. So I gave my proof, those who helped were ICE, home immigration [such agency name I was unable to find], and those who protect human rights. I gave in all my proof, photographs, to immigration and the judge. And I won my case.
Yo: Como te compenzaron?
Me: How were you compensated?
Cesar: Dándome la oportunidad de salir a Mexico. Pero sabe como? Sin delito. Porque ese delito que yo tenía era para 25 años de prisión. Y pues yo segui peleando mi caso. Tenía derecho a residencia y dos millones de dólares. Me estaban dando 297 meses en un lugar asi como asi [similar a Mazunte]. Pero yo no podía salir de ese lugar, mas si no a comprar. Pero de todos modos, aunque estuviera en libertad, me sentia mas que un preso. Porque no podías salir a 500 metros a ambos lados. Los 2 millones no eran seguro, eso lo que me decía la abogada, el licenciado, y el juez: “mira ganastes el caso, hay posibilidades de que ganes los 2 millones de dólares y la residencia. Pero estas en que aguantes los 297 meses, 27 años de prisión a esperar a que decidan”. Se imagina quien se va a aguantar 27 años a los 20 años?
By giving me the opportunity to enter Mexico. But want to know how? With no criminal record. Because that crime was for 25 years in prison. And I continued to fight my case. I had the right of becoming a resident and earning 2 million dollars. I had to complete 297 months in a place similar to this [similar to Mazunte]. But I couldn’t go out anywhere, only to shop. Regardless, even if I was free, I felt more than a prisoner. I couldn’t go any further than 500 meters on each side. The 2 million wasn’t a done deal either, that is what my lawyer, attorney, and judge said: “Look you won the case, and there are possibilities that you will earn 2 million dollars and your residency. But you have to withstand the 297 months, 27 years in prison and wait to see what is decided.” Can you imagine who will endure 27 years in prison at the age of 20?
* * *
Cesar currently remains in Mazunte, until his probation period of 10 years is completed. He has 3 more remaining years. As he explained separately, he often thinks of crossing again just to see his 7-year-old son. But he remains, knowing well that if he were retained once more, his sentence would worsen. Presently, his case can still be disputed, as he mentioned, it was left open. As for the officer who hit him, he was given 15 years in jail and is no longer in the force.
As of 2014, “Pew’s preliminary estimate counted the total illegal immigration population at 11.3 million.” The solution is NOT to remove every single family member, worker, student, mother, and father, but rather to establish an immigration reform. I’m not saying it’s easy, but we cannot forget these are human beings and no human being is illegal.