Guest Voz: Invitation from Guatemalan Human Rights Commission shows 2nd-generation Latina what happened to Postville deportees

By Cynthia Mazariegos
LatinaLista — Second-generation Guatemalan-American, Cynthia Mazariegos, dreams of becoming a lawyer one day and championing justice for immigrants as an immigration attorney. Her dreams are fueled by the ongoing debate in the United States over comprehensive immigration reform and witnessing how hard-working, undocumented immigrants have been caught in the middle of this contentious issue.
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Cynthia Mazariegos totes wood the traditional way while visiting Guatemalan communities.
(Photo Source: Cynthia Mazariegos)

Yet, it wasn’t until a recent opportunity presented to Cynthia by the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission, that enabled this 24-year-old paralegal to return to her parents’ birthplace, did Cynthia fully learn what kinds of conditions exist in Guatemala that propel people to come and work illegally in the United States. Because of her trip, Cynthia learned, that contrary to popular perception, the people of Guatemala are trying to help themselves and change those conditions.
An unforgettable part of the trip was meeting with some of the Guatemalans who were deported from the United States as a result of one of the biggest federal immigration raids in the country at Postville, Iowa.
Cynthia shares with Latina Lista readers her impressions and her conversations during a trip that underscored how little international borders mean to people who need to earn a wage to live.

Living in Chicago, as a first generation Guatemalan-American, the topic of immigration has always been close to my heart. So when the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission (GHRC) offered me a seat in their August delegation to study the economic reasons for migration to the United States, I jumped at the opportunity.
What I learned in those ten days showed me that there are many alternatives to “comprehensive” immigration reform than what both political parties have presented so far.
On our ten-day trip through the beautiful country of Guatemala, the GHRC delegation met with several cooperatives that created jobs in which the employees could earn a decent wage.
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Women of Lema weaving a scarf.
(Photo Source: Cynthia Mazariegos)

One example was L’EMA’ Tz’utujil Women’s Weaving Cooperative of San Juan la Laguna. The women of San Juan made a conscious choice to create a system to earn a wage they could live on so their families could stay united.
They formed a cooperative where they are selling their woven works in a small store and are trying to sell their pieces of woven works through the internet. What makes their work extraordinary is that they use dyes from local plants making them an eco-friendly cooperative.
If you are thinking they’re different than the general Guatemalan population, you would be surprised to know that all of the women who belong to the cooperative, even the administrative board, cannot read or write Spanish. Some women do not even know how to speak the language.

We visited another cooperative, the Diego Chocolate Family Cooperative, in San Pedro la Laguna. They also created an alternative to the day laborer’s wage, which is not enough for the daily food basket for an average family of four.
This cooperative consisted of one family who started making organic chocolate and selling it from their home in San Pedro. This business gave the family the income to keep all four of their children in Guatemala, which is not the case for many poor families, as it’s the young adults who are the first to migrate to the U.S. in search of jobs.

Diego Chocolate comes in 146 flavors.
(Photo source: Cynthia Mazariegos)

Other than cooperatives, the delegation also met with deportees from the famous raid of Postville, Iowa in San Miguel Dueñas. Here, we heard true stories of the human rights violations U.S. law enforcement officials perpetrated on the deportees and the reality of their desperate situation.
The town of San Miguel Dueñas has now been labeled “a state of economic emergency” by the Guatemalan government since many of the three hundred plus deportees were from this small town.
Yet, the bigger question is: Did the raid deter future migration to the United States? No.
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The Guatemalan Human Rights Commission met with Potsville deportees.
(Photo Source: Michelle Cassel)

The reality of the severe poverty found in Guatemala is still enough reason for fathers, mothers, and children to leave their families behind and make the life-threatening migration north. What the massive raid in Postville did was to create more financial difficulties for a population that is already in poverty.
It also caused the starvation and poverty of many U.S. citizens who, with no other alternatives, where deported with their parents to Guatemala. That is the reality I experienced firsthand in Guatemala when I met with Maria who was deported with her three-year-old U.S. citizen daughter.
Since they have been deported, they have been evicted from their home and have had to count on the charity of others for food and shelter until Maria can find a job – which in Guatemala is extremely difficult.
Meeting Maria’s daughter and witnessing how hard her life has now become hit home with me for a very simple reason — Maria’s daughter and I are not very different. The only thing separating our polar opposite situations seems to be luck.
My parents came to the United States twenty-five years ago in search of a better life for their children. By the grace of Reagan’s amnesty, they were able to become U.S. citizens and give me the economic stability to get an education.
However, I will not just get an education — I will use that education to help people who were not as lucky as me. I will help people like Maria’s daughter who now faces starvation in Guatemala with no help from social services that are her right as a U.S. citizen.

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18 Comments

  1. El Guapo said:

    One thing the article leaves out is the difference in the lifestyles of those families who have relatives working the U.S. and those that don’t. Just driving through a town and looking at the condition of the homes, you can tell which families have relatives working abroad.
    The houses are nicer. The children are healthier. The improvement in the lives of those left behind is striking.

  2. cookie said:

    No one has the “human right” work or reside in any country without authorization to do so and it makes me ill seeing citizens pitting themselves against our government acting like we are the bad guys for enforcing our immigration laws. What in the world is this country coming to?

  3. Pablo said:

    1. You haven’t made any case for human rights violations for these people. Which human rights are you claiming were violated? Human rights are specified under law or they aren’t human rights at all, but wishes. They came here with the full knowledge that they could be deported, so they shouldn’t be disappointed when it happens.
    2. This claim of starvation is not supported by your article. How many are starving and why? If they are, it is a UN problem and not the resposiblity of the U.S. Your article indicates that these people are supported by family members and not starving. You have to prove this, not just assume it or accept one person’s annecdote, which could be just furthering their agenda, not necessarily the truth. Also, what are other Latin American countries, like Mexico, one of the wealthiest economies south of our border doing for these people? If Mexico is as wealthy as international economists say they are, shouldn’t they be doing something about the plight of their neighbors? Why should it always be the U.S.? The world is full of countries filled with poor people, but they don’t get the sympathy or support that you give these people.
    .

  4. Seán McCluskey said:

    Cynthia is doing such important work! I know her personally, but still I cannot tell you how impressed I am with this article and with what she is doing! So many Americans have forgotten the fact that the US is, has been, and likely always will be A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS…maith an cailin! :)

  5. cookie said:

    Well, El Guapo if you are refering to Guatamalans who are working illegaly in our and how their families livesstyles have improved at home, I can honestly say that illegal immigraton hasn’t improved American’s lifestyles.

  6. cookie said:

    To some I might add, the quality of lifestyle for Americans and their children being on the decine due to illegal immigration is not important I guess. What is really sad is many who think that way are our fellow citizens.

  7. Marisa Treviño said:

    Excuse me Cookie but I think there are a lot of Americans who would disagree that undocumented workers haven’t improved American lifestyles or the national economy. Just ask all those people who have their homes cleaned and tended by undocumented women or people who have landscapists and yard workers who have undocumented staff or ask all the retailers, movie theater managers and grocery stores who have undocumented customers. You obviously want to only see one side of the picture but there are two sides.

  8. cookie said:

    No one has the right to hire cheap illegal labor to cut their own personal expenditures. It is against the law for Gods’s sake! What those law breaking Americans don’t realize is that they aren’t getting any bargain anyway when they factor in all these illegal’s social costs that are coming out of our tax coffers.
    No, there isn’t two sides, Marisa. Laws are laws and they trump any illegal activity or supposed gains. That isn’t what our country is all about.

  9. cookie said:

    Sean, we WERE a nation of immigrants in the PAST! We are now a nation of Americans by several generations that still takes in LEGAL immigrants. Time to shed that stupid label and to be identified as a nation of native born citzens. Besides what does being a nation of immigrants in the past have to do with illegal immigration today? Nothing, nada!

  10. Kenny said:

    “…..and likely always will be A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS…maith an cailin! :)”
    Sean, how does this fact grant license to those who would cross our borders illegally? I believe that the nearly two million people, more than the rest of the world combined, permitted to enter this country under a visa, speaks to the generosity of this country towards the concept of immigration. Americans have nothing be ashamed about when it comes to this issue. This fact alone should be sufficient to de-legitimize the argument of those who would wield the club of “we are a nation of immigrants” to promote their open borders agenda.

  11. Karen said:

    Re: “…I think there are a lot of Americans who would disagree that undocumented workers haven’t improved American lifestyles or the national economy.”
    I live in CA, and our economy is reeling. Yes, illegal immigrants are very important in the agricultural industry, but many illegal immigrants who are not agricultural workers are unemployed and have families who use social services that drain our state’s resources. I know they’re poor, and I don’t blame them because I know they are victims of NAFTA, but enough is enough. Obama has ignored the massive economic problems in our state, and my guess is that he doesn’t want to get caught up in a debate about immigration. So we are losing our economic standing as well as our political clout. I wish Obama would take a stand and just deport illegal immigrants in areas with high unemployment such as Central CA, Los Angeles, and Riverside/San Bernardino.
    Mexican-Americans have always paid the highest economic price for illegal immigration. This cannot continue. If Obama doesn’t help CA he cannot count on my vote.
    At some point these immigrants are going to have to find a leader and fix their own countries.

  12. Evelyn said:

    Besides what does being a nation of immigrants in the past have to do with illegal immigration today?
    E
    It is well known that the US was founded on the illegal invasion of the American continent by people just like you, so stop playing the illegal alien card because it exposes what a hypocrit you are.
    That is the reason you dont want anyone to address that issue.

  13. Benjamin said:

    “…….it is well known that the US was founded on the illegal invasion of the American continent by people just like you,…..”
    Evelyn, which code of laws did the first settlers break? Your contention is a nutty as claiming the Romans broke laws by conquering most of the known world at the time. As a matter of fact, the settlers (consider French and English different tribes) had their Christian ethics to keep them from mistreating their European opponents. Granted that this wasn’t followed to the letter, but it did moderate their actions. Indians had nothing that compared to this. The fact is that the American Indians had no laws at the time and fought one another over millenniums, and often gave no quarter. I suspect that no Sioux tried to claim land from a Chippewa by citing any written law. Neither had a written code of law at the time. While tribes has unwritten social mores for their own people, making reference to legality, or the breaking laws has no meaning in an context of inter-tribal warfare that existed in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The idea that there was some kind of code recognized and abided by all tribes is ludicrous when one considers that torture of one’s enemies by slicing and dicing was a common practice. To argue that American Indians were docile and civilized towards their own kind (other tribes) is fantasy. Indians were no better than Europeans when it came to treatment of their fellow human beings. Cry hate if you must but the only difference between settlers and Indians was the fact that the former were better armed.

  14. cookie said:

    Benjamin, the problem with Evelyn is that she blames the entire white race alive today and who were born in this country for the past. I already told her that my ancestors didn’t even come here till the early 1900′s in accordance with U.S.immigration law at the time. I would imagine that her Irish father did the same! The joke is that it makes her half white herself!
    She suggests that all the natives on this continent were all related and were free to roam all over each other’s lands at will. Yeah, right! Try and tell an Apache that they are related to the Aztecs and they would laugh their behinds off. The Aztecs which many modern day Mexicans are descendants of didn’t live in this country. They lived in points south of our border.
    We have treaties with those tribes that were indigenous to this country. We owe the descendants of the Aztecs or Mayans (Mexicans) nothing! Most are half white themselves by their white European Spanish blood anyway. Maybe they should whine to Spain then. Funny, how people like Evelyn and the Mestizos of Mexico are crying about stolen land when they are half white themselves.

  15. Evelyn said:

    cookie :
    Benjamin, the problem with Evelyn is that she blames the entire white race alive today and who were born in this country for the past.
    E
    That is one of the bigger whoppers you have told lately. You tell so many it’s hard to keep track……
    I expose the HYPOCRACY of racists like you who whine about Hispanic immigrants and blame them for all the ills of this country and your failures, even though they come here for the same reason your invading ancestors and you have anchored yourselves to this land . A better life.
    I already told her that my ancestors didn’t even come here till the early 1900′s in accordance with U.S.immigration law at the time.
    E
    Every European who has come to anchor themselves to this land was an illegal immigrant. They just wrote laws to make themselves legal and the original inhabitants of this land illegal.
    I would imagine that her Irish father did the same! The joke is that it makes her half white herself!
    E
    My Irish father and I have never use lies to demonize Hispanic, or any other immigrants like you and the other racists do. We have alwayse supported the Constitution of the US and think all immigrants should be treated with justice and equality as compared to the immigrants that came before them who went on to become citizens regardless of skin color or country of birth.
    She suggests that all the natives on this continent were all related and were free to roam all over each other’s lands at will. Yeah, right! Try and tell an Apache that they are related to the Aztecs and they would laugh their behinds off. The Aztecs which many modern day Mexicans are descendants of didn’t live in this country. They lived in points south of our border.
    E
    Your Ignorance is embarrassing even to me because people must think all Americans are racist like you and ignorant like you!
    The Apache and the Aztec are very closely related. They are so closely related they speak a variation of the same language. Google Ute Aztecan and educate yourself.
    We have treaties with those tribes that were indigenous to this country.
    E
    Yes and the US government broke 99% of them.
    We owe the descendants of the Aztecs or Mayans (Mexicans) nothing!
    E
    No, but the Constitution of the US of A guarantees all people including Aztec, Mayans, Mexicans or Siberians the same justice and equality that your invading ancestors enjoyed within our borders.
    Most are half white themselves by their white European Spanish blood anyway. Maybe they should whine to Spain then. Funny, how people like Evelyn and the Mestizos of Mexico are crying about stolen land when they are half white themselves.
    E
    What is really funny is the way you throw a hissy fit when TRUTH is exposed. All the venom, spin and misinformation in the world you can spew in a year wont change TRUTH .
    Truth is your biggest enemy. Because it shows what a hypocrit you are. Funny, how people like cookie moan and groan about Mexicans when her own ancestors were immigrants.
    Maby she should go moan and groan to the country she and her ancestors should have stayed at for allowing their citizens to invade this land . Now look at the embarrassment they have caused with that behavior. They make hypocrits out of their racist descendents who want to keep “OTHERS ” out.

  16. cookie said:

    Evelyn, you are the one telling the whoppers. You constantly harp about our white ancestor’s past and hold white people alive today accountable for it whether they be a racist or not! I have read your posts in here an on another forum and there is no denying it.
    I don’t whine about Hispanic immigrants. I oppose ALL ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. Stop blurring the lines between legal and illegal and claiming that it is only the Hispanic illegals we oppose. I don’t even blame all the woes of this country on them. Cut and paste where I said that, you can’t!.
    For the umpteenth time (can’t you read?) my ancestors didn’t come here till the early 1900′s. So how were they invaders? They came in accordance with U.S. immigration law at the time. That proves right there that you blame ALL whites for the past and their descendants for what happened hundreds of years ago when my ancestors have only been here for less than 100 years! You tripped yourself up right there!!!
    I was born here, therefore I am not an illegal immigrant! Doesn’t matter what your father’s views were on immigration according to you he was an illegal immigrant and you are his offspring so that makes you an invader also going along with your idiotic thinking. You can’t just claim the genetic side of your mother’s family.
    We take in immigrants from all skin colors, races and ethnic groups legally so WTH are you talking about? There is no discrimination in that way. Quit blurring the lines between legal and illegal immigrant. Our constitution does not grant unconditional rights to Mexicans or any other group here in our country ILLEGALLY. You are the ignorant one!
    Bitch to the government then if you feel treaties were broken between the indigenous of THIS country. Don’t bitch to American citizens who had nothing to do with it.
    The Apaches of today and yesterday hated the Mexican indians and they were not even remotely connected. You are the one who should read a history book. It is irrelevant anyway. The Aztecs and Mayans were not indigenous to the U.S.
    There you go again proving my point that you DO blame the entire white race for the past when the white people involved in the native indian conflicts were not MY ancestors. I am of Polish heritage. The Poles did not fight the native indians. Most didn’t even come here till the early 1900′s. Yep, you aren’t even smart enough to cover you own lies, are you?
    Oh, so responding to you nonsense is throwing a hissy fit? Coudn’t I say the same thing about you then? I see a lot of hissy fit going on in your post above. There is only some truth in your posts most of it is lies.
    I have nothing against immigrants coming here legally that includes Mexicans. Since we have immigration laws and my ancestors came in accordance with those laws, I expect the same from today’s immigrants. So no, that doesn’t make me a hypocrite! Get out of the past and stop hating the entire white race. You truly do need psychological help.

  17. Evelyn said:

    cookie :
    Evelyn, you are the one telling the whoppers. You constantly harp about our white ancestor’s past and hold white people alive today accountable for it whether they be a racist or not! I have read your posts in here an on another forum and there is no denying it.
    E
    Lying again! I despise racists like you, Al Garza, Emma Pullido, Pat Buchanan, Lou Dobbs. It doesent matter what color or ethnicity they are. STOP putting words in my mouth.
    I don’t whine about Hispanic immigrants. I oppose ALL ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. Stop blurring the lines between legal and illegal and claiming that it is only the Hispanic illegals we oppose. I don’t even blame all the woes of this country on them. Cut and paste where I said that, you can’t!.
    For the umpteenth time (can’t you read?) my ancestors didn’t come here till the early 1900′s. So how were they invaders? They came in accordance with U.S. immigration law at the time.
    E
    Those laws were enacted by whom cookie, other illegal immigrants who came from Europe before them.
    Europeans never asked the indigenous peoples if they could stay on this land. When the indigenous people kept the Europeans from starving they were and have been stabbed in the back since then.
    According to you it would be OK if I went into your home and killed you and your family when you asked me to leave and just stayed there to live and then invited all my friends and relatives to stay to live also because I made it LEGAL for them, but if your friends or relatives wanted to stay to live I would run them off, because according to me they were ILLEGAL!
    Ha! Ha! Ha! NOT GONNA FLY! The rest of your spewing and regurgitating of lies is irrelevant, so I wont waste my time debunking those lies you keep repeating like Joseph Gobbles.

  18. cookie said:

    Evelyn, I haven’t put any words in your mouth. You have over and over chastized the entire white race including those who were born in this country over the past. You can’t deny your own thoughts and words for God’s sake!
    What makes me a racist? I already told you that I am for legal immigration from all ethnic groups. So where is the racism in that???
    It is merely your opinion that those who established this country’s government, borders and laws were illegals. There were no immigration laws at the time. Throughout history lands have exchanged hands and wars have been fought all over this planet and these things occured mostly hundreds of years ago. What has that to do with the citizens born in those countries today?
    Your analogy is just plain stupid because we would have to judge your scenario by TODAY’s laws and standards, not yesterdays. So no, one cannot take up residence today in someone’s private home and murder them without paying the consequences according to TODAY’S laws!
    I am quite aware of what happened to the native indians but I wasn’t a part of that so why are you bitching to me about it? I can tell you why, Evelyn. It goes back to you hating the entire white race (unless you are a self-loathing, pro-amnesty white) of today for what happened yesterday. That is ridiculous! You hate them even though many of their ancestors didn’t even come here till the early 1900′s and even later as mine did. That makes no sense at all! It just proves that you are bearing a grudge againt the entire white race in this country today and even you weren’t alive hundreds of years ago. You are living in the past of your ancestors instead of living in the present. Except you choose to live in your native indian ancestor’s past while totally disregarding that your white father came over just like my ancestors did and probably around the same time!
    Another reason your thinking is so screwed up is that you think that Mexicans should be able to come here in violation of our immigration laws. Their ancestors didn’t even live in this country so what right do they have to this country?
    I haven’t spouted any lies. Prove it by pasting specific statements I have made or shut up! You do this all the time. You have no evidence of someone being a racist or a liar but when they don’t agree with your point of view you throw out the nasty labels anyway. You are so full of hate and venom it is a wonder you can function in your daily life.

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