Mexico's 'Mama Africa' welcomes migrants on a prolonged journey

For migrants, either relocating by Europe or Latin America, certain spots spin famous along a approach for welcoming people.

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I revisit one such place in a Mexican city of Tapachula, nearby a limit with Guatemala. It’s a bare-bones hotel nearby downtown. The manager is a petite, 59-year-old Mexican lady with coral pinkish eyeglasses and gold-colored teddy bear earrings. Her name is Concepción González Ramírez, and she was innate and lifted here in Tapachula, though many now know her as Mama Africa. She’s called that since a hotel — indeed she herself — has spin a end for Africans, as good as Haitians, flitting through.

The hotel isn’t that charming. For $2.50 a night, guest stay in simple bedrooms with peeling, unclothed walls and metal-frame beds. In a lobby, there’s a parrot in a cage. There’s no pointer for a hotel, but African and Haitian migrants by a hundreds have found their approach here.

Sometimes, Ramírez says, people arrive in packaged minibuses during a tip of a road, “and start yelling out, ‘Mama Africa! Where’s Mama Africa?!’”

There’s a peace now, though progressing this year Ramirez had 200 guest during a time. There are usually 24 rooms, so some people slept on card outside. She doesn’t wish to spin anyone away.

She also helps out by holding ill guest to a hospital, shopping medicine they can’t afford, and rubbing relief on travel-weary feet.

Tychique Sebastiao, from Angola, arrived recently. we ask him if Mama Africa is a wise nickname for Ramírez.

The Sebastiao family (with their girl, Merrui, sporting a with a yogurt mustache) mount with Concepción González Ramírez, also famous as Mama Africa. The Sebastiaos came from Angola around Brazil, and they wish to strech Boston.


Amy Bracken

“Yes, yes,” he says, with a laugh. “I feel she is unequivocally like that, since African women are unequivocally good women. Very loving. She has a mother’s gregariousness. … We’re unequivocally gentle here.”

Sebastiao is roving with his sister and her 3 children, anticipating to get to Boston to reunite with her husband. 

They’d been vital in Brazil already, though for some Africans a renouned track to a US is to initial fly to South America and afterwards conduct north.

They listened about Mama Africa from associate travelers. “Mama Africa is a name that’s famous all along a route,” says Felix Michelet, a guest here from Haiti.

He says Haitians and Africans mostly transport together, and Africans over forward on a track had sent behind word about Ramírez around Whatsapp.

Like many Haitians, Michelet lived in Brazil, operative construction forward of a Olympics and a World Cup. After Brazil’s economy weakened, he began creation his approach to a US. He’s been during Mama Africa’s for months, offering SIM cards to make adequate income for a train to Tijuana.

I ask if he’ll stay in hold with Ramirez.

“Mama Africa is a mom, we’re never going to let her go,” he says with a laugh. “We’ll always be in touch.”

Ramírez says former guest mostly content her, observant hello or stating swell on their trip. She says her work is encouraged by her Christian faith. She doesn’t know most about Africa, though she has schooled from guest how to make Ghanaian-style chicken.

Ramírez competence be famous around here, though she’s not a usually guide for migrants in Tapachula. Across town, a mud highway dead-ends during Jesús Valenzuela’s house. This winter, Valenzuela and his family done space in their tiny home for guests. He’s a internal cop, and he saw African migrants were being overcharged for train tickets. He started assisting them get a satisfactory deal, and offering adult his home for a sire a night.

Now, adult to 25 people, mostly Haitian, are staying here. Some nap on quilts on a floor, though there’s electricity, laundry, and an outside cooking area.

Valenzuela says he knows what his guest go through.

“I was in a United States,” he says. “I’ve gifted what they’re experiencing. we went by a desert, and we suffered. There are places where people help, and places where they don’t, so that’s because we wish to support and assistance them.”

After 3 years in a US, Valenzuela was deported following a workplace raid.

Most migrants entrance by Tapachula are Central American, and some locals open their doors to them too.

José Antonio Cordova Meléndez tells me he fled extortionists in Honduras with his mother and 3 children — and no plan. In Tapachula, he asked around about housing, and a foreigner — a singular mom — took them in. Months have left by and a family is still in her house, perplexing to figure out their subsequent move.

Back during Mama Africa’s, a bedrooms are full again. In a halls, travelers sensitively investigate their dungeon phones. A minibus came by currently and unloaded 20 new guests, mostly from Somalia.

Ramírez seems happy with a fuller house, though she’s also sentimental for those who’ve gone. Like a unapproachable grandmother, she scrolls by her digital print album.. There’s a design of her daughter with her hair cornrowed by a guest, some shots of grandchildren, and many some-more of travelers, immature and old. She laughs sadly by her brief introductions.

“Ya se fueron,” she says, repeatedly. “They’ve left.”

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