– December 6 2020
Two brave sisters escape violence in Honduras
"I was afraid for my family and myself, so the only option I had was to flee home and my sister joined me."
Fernanda (17) and Jimena (16), from Honduras, fled violence at the beginning of this year, hoping for a fresh start in the United States. After being detained in a migration center in Mexico without knowing what was next, the pandemic outbreak increased their fear and uncertainty.
The sisters paid a coyote to take them to Mexico. Although they had heard of the risks that migrating through one of the most dangerous routes in the world entailed, they knew that if they stayed at their hometown of San Pedro de Sula, their lives were in danger.
“A gang leader wanted to marry me,” says Jimena. “After I refused him several times, the threats began. I was afraid for my family and myself, so the only option I had was to flee home and my sister joined me.”
In mid-January, the first migrant caravan arrived at the border of Mexico and Guatemala, where more than 3,500 people tried to cross into Mexican territory to reach the United States. However, most of them were deported to their countries of origin since migratory measures had been made stricter than before.
Upon arriving in Mexico after four days of traveling, the sisters were detained and transferred to an immigration station where they stayed for a week. They were later relocated to a temporary shelter for migrant minors in Chiapas, Mexico.
Without a clear idea of what would come next, the unaccompanied minors were deprived of their liberty in confined spaces, with little hygiene due to overcrowding in the shelters. Jimena recalls that sometimes they were only fed beans and water. Abuse and discrimination from the staff was also common.
“They treated us very badly. I didn't like being in that place, it was horrible and we were afraid,” says Jimena. “When I was told I was leaving, they didn't even tell me where I was going. They just put me in a migration van without my sister.”
A different kind of shelter
Jimena arrived at the SOS Children’s Village of Comitán at the beginning of July. She remembers being surprised and thinking that it was a nice shelter. She was welcomed and joined a home with her new SOS mother, Fanny, and other three young men from Honduras who had been through a similar journey. After one month, her sister Fernanda joined her.
“I feel free here. We are not locked up and we can go outside,” says Fernanda. “After going through so much, including the pandemic, I feel safer because we have a place to stay. We are cared for and advised on our future.”
Jimena now loves to cook for her SOS family! She learned all her recipes from watching her mother and her dream is to become a chef.
“I cannot help feeling worried about my family and that they will get the virus,” says Jimena. “But I trust that they will be okay because we are used to fighting back, even before the pandemic.”
Jimena has also started an English course. Fernanda, however, was only able to finish kindergarten. After her father was murdered, she began developing problems with language. Her goal is to learn how to read and write, and she dreams of becoming a police officer so that she can help others.
“People have made fun of me—they say that I am too old to not know how to read and write,” says Fernanda. “That makes me sad but in my life, many things have happened and I overcame these, so I will learn no matter what others say. For now, Fanny has already taught me to write my name and that made me feel very happy.”
These brave sisters already have permanent residency in the country, which allows them to move freely through Mexican territory. Like many migrants escaping violence, Jimena and Fernanda dream of living in the United States without fear and the threat of danger, while they support their family and hope to meet them again.
Since 2018, SOS Children’s Villages Mexico has supported 60 unaccompanied youth that escaped violence and danger in Central America, providing care, guidance, capacity building and support for their asylum applications in the country.
Learn more about how SOS Children's Villages supports vulnerable migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.