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May 3, 2023, Adrian, Michigan – People who migrate from their home countries in Central America or other regions of the world do so largely out of desperation and the need for survival.
That was the message that Karla Rivas, a journalist and activist from Honduras, brought to the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse Campus April 19, 2023, on the first day of an eight-city, 15-day tour of the United States. Karla spoke to the Sisters from her own experience as an award-winning journalist for Jesuit-sponsored Radio Progreso, an independent radio station in Honduras. She coordinates the radio station’s Network with Migrants in Central America, as well as the Jesuit Reflection, Research, and Communication Team (ERIC).
Also making the tour was Reynaldo Dominguez, a water defender from Guapinol, Tocoa, Honduras, whose brother Aly was assassinated on January 7, 2023, for defending the health of the country’s rivers. He spent his first full day in Detroit.
Speaking through a translator – Sister Rose Ann Schlitt, OP – Karla noted the difficult conditions that compel people from Central America to flee their homeland. “It’s a condition to save their own lives that pushes them out of their own country,” she said. “Seven out of 10 of our citizens are poor and do not have the basic necessities covered with what they earn.”
The lives of people in Honduras are also threatened by gangs and organized crime. In addition, activists who attempt to protect their land and water from exploitation have been targeted and killed. In many cases, Karla added, young people flee Honduras for fear of being arrested under suspicion of being involved in gangs or other crimes, she said. Under the current “state of exception” – martial law – they can be arrested and detained with no evidence of any wrong-doing.
Karla spoke of the danger that migrants from many countries face as they struggle to enter the United States through Mexico. Many must pass through the jungle of Panama – often walking “five, six, seven days without eating, without being assured of any protection or food,” and facing possible human rights violations as they cross into other countries on the way to Mexico and the United States, she said.
Because so many people pass through Mexico to get to the United States, “Mexico has become the new frontier of the United States – and Guatemala, being the next country over, has become the second in importance,” Karla said. “So, the frontier of the United States keeps getting farther and father south. In the same way, the pressure from the south of people trying to go north continues and puts a pressure on those new frontier countries.”
But Karla finished her presentation on a positive note, on the benefits of migration. “Migration really is or can be a mutually enriching experience,” she said. She spoke of the “broad gamut of possibilities which collaboration – being together, coming together, thinking together, sharing together – give us to create a new future for ourselves … I’m learning today and will be learning from other groups here [in the United States] that open us up to new possibilities of what we can create.”
Karla’s brief visit to Adrian included a tour of Adrian Rea Literacy Center, sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters and offering one-on-one tutoring of English as a Second Language to the majority of students; a tour of the Congregation’s Permaculture gardens; an informal lunch with the committee of Sisters who planned Karla’s visit; and the presentation.
Karla continued her tour in Detroit, beginning with a formal dinner at the University of Detroit-Mercy. The tour also included stops in Cleveland, Ohio; Omaha, Nebraska; San Francisco; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; Boston; and Atlanta.
The tour was organized to educate people in the United States about the struggles of migrants and of environmental activists in Honduras to defend their water and land from corporations and government seeking to exploit the natural resources of Earth.
The tour was sponsored and organized by the SHARE Foundation, which for more than 40 years has focused on building solidarity among the people of El Salvador, Honduras, and the United States through a model of mutual accompaniment. The SHARE Foundation also sponsors delegations of people from the United States to El Salvador and Honduras to learn about their struggles.
In December 2022, two Adrian Dominican Sisters participated in a delegation co-sponsored by the SHARE Foundation and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
Watch Karla’s presentation below, with interpretation by Sister Rose Ann Schlitt, OP. (Presentation viewable at the 25 second mark; we apologize that her introduction was not recorded.)