Human+Kind: Monse's Story

Monse:Photo Credit: Carlos Rodriquez, Red Cross Volunteer

Monse:Photo Credit: Carlos Rodriquez, Red Cross Volunteer

Migration affects the lives of millions across the United States, the Americas, and globally. The Human+Kind project seeks to highlight the stories of migrants in the US-Mexico borderlands and the work of humanitarian organizations to support them, including the work of the Red Cross. For more from this project, please click here.

"I'm from Guanajuato, Mexico, and I’ve been in Tijuana for almost two years. I lived in North Carolina for 12 years. Due to domestic violence, I fled back to my mother’s home in Guanajuato with my two daughters. My ex-husband had threatened me with a firearm and, in fact, had injured me enough to send me to the hospital. So, in 2014, I returned to Mexico.

"Life in Guanajuato was very different than what we lived in North Carolina. My daughters did not speak Spanish well so they struggled in school. After some time, I tried to return to the United States with my daughters. I tried to cross twice but was unsuccessful. Without enough money to pay a coyote [smuggler] to get us all across, I had to make the difficult decision to send them without me. As American citizens, they were able to get back legally [and safely]. They live with their father in North Carolina. I got stuck in Mexico. Once he had my daughters, my ex-husband said I was on my own.

"I had not seen my daughters in more than two years, and I finally was able to see them via Skype during the custody hearing. We spent nearly five hours in court — he testified in person while I was in Tijuana presenting my side [through the Internet]. My daughters stated they did not want to live with me, that they loved their father more than they loved me. There were moments of tension, moments of joy (because I at least got to see my daughters). I presented myself as best I could. I couldn't look weak, I couldn't cry or get angry.

"I see families walking together in Tijuana, going out to eat. I ask myself: What are [my daughters] doing? How are they? Are they eating? Are they sleeping? Do they miss me? Will they still love me? What is their life like? How much have they grown? How much have they changed?

"I may not know the answers to these questions until the day I see them again or until they grow up. One day, when I have them in front of me, they themselves will give me their answers.

"The guards at the detention center in Eagle Pass, Texas, said they were punishing us for entering the country illegally. They'd make us take scalding hot showers. The shower handles said hot and cold but only hot water would come out. At first, the water felt nice. But then the water would burn and we'd come out with our skin red and irritated. They'd turn up the air conditioner to get the area as cold as they could get it, and my body would shiver.

"At night, they'd keep the air conditioner set to super cold; during the day they'd sometimes turn it off. It was an unbearable heat. The building was made of metal, making the brutal Texas heat even worse. There were 60 or 70 of us in a giant warehouse full of beds. You could smell the sewage and other bad odors. When they transported us to the courthouse, they would handcuff us, shackle our feet, and cover our mouths with masks. Some women would ask why they cover our mouths and the guards would say it was because we were dirty and full of diseases. They had locked us up with criminals who had committed horrible crimes — and they treated us all that way.

"They would wake us up at four in the morning. We'd make our bed and get ready for breakfast. If one person did not do everything exactly right, they would punish us all. They would feed us rotten food. Sometimes we would stop eating for a few days but after awhile, you would just be too hungry and so you would eat whatever they served. The milk was spoiled, the few potatoes that floated in water smelled rancid and tasted bad, the tortillas were hard and the oatmeal was dry. They would serve the same for lunch. For dinner, they would serve a sandwich or a piece of ham, more oatmeal and tortillas, and beans. We all would look forward to breakfast on Wednesdays. They would serve us pancakes with a little butter and syrup, and more dry oatmeal, and rotten oranges. Wednesdays were super special. 

"Why would they punish us that way? The whole experience has been a bit difficult for me. [After about a month], I left the detention center a bit traumatized. I had nightmares for more than one year."