Climate migration: Honduran couple flee amid storms and threats

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TIJUANA, Mexico – With its cheerful unicorn-printed case, Ana Morazan’s iPhone contains all that’s left of what she calls her “other world,” referring to her middle-class life before back-to-back hurricanes hit. destroy his house in Honduras.

There are glamorous photos of the 42-year-old with salon-style blonde hair, flawless makeup and cocktail dresses. And photos of her as a home health aide in her white medical coat, smiling proudly as a professional who owned her home and lived debt-free.

The comfortable life she built through years of hard work and sacrifice disappeared in the space of two weeks when she became part of the estimated 1.7 million people displaced by hurricanes Eta and Iota that hit Honduras and Guatemala in November 2020.

Morazan and her boyfriend, Fredi Juarez, who moved in with her during the pandemic, say they got into debt trying to rebuild Morazan’s house and then started receiving threats. The couple have been on the move ever since and are currently living in a tent at a crowded Tijuana shelter.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing series exploring the lives of people around the world who have been forced to move due to rising seas, drought, scorching temperatures and more. caused or exacerbated by climate change.

Morazan’s iPhone photos and videos console and torment her. They remind her of who she was and what she had, giving her hope of returning there, but also proof of how quickly she was swept away by the storms that led her to become a migrant.

She wipes away a tear watching a video she recorded of the destruction near San Pedro Sula. In the video, she scans every room in her once spotless home, painted a bright lime color and now splattered with dirt. Then she looks at the camera and says, “All I have is mud and more mud and more mud.”

The couple said that since leaving they have been attacked, kidnapped and robbed, which keeps them on the move. Now, she and Juarez are among tens of thousands of Central Americans in Mexican border towns seeking asylum in the United States, but are blocked by a pandemic-related health order that was invoked by the Trump administration and which continued under President Joe Biden.

While fear of violence prevents them from trying to return to Honduras, even if they did return they would have no place to live. If Eta and Iota hadn’t struck, it wouldn’t have started a chain reaction of other things that forced them to flee.

“All of our problems started with the hurricanes,” said Juarez, 48.

No nation offers asylum to those displaced specifically because of climate change, although the Biden administration has studied climate migration to explore options. Every year, storms, drought, forest fires and other natural disasters force an average of 21.5 million people to leave their homes around the world, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Honduras was among 11 countries identified as being of most concern in the U.S. government’s first assessment by intelligence agencies of the impact of climate change and its far-reaching ripple effects on global stability that was released last year. last. But identifying climate migrants is not easy, especially in areas plagued by violence.

“I’m just asking President Biden to help me,” Morazan said. “It’s not easy for us, given our age. It was a nightmare. Your life can change in a second. We lived well. Now we don’t know what will happen day to day.

After Eta’s hit, Morazan cleaned buckets of mud from the living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom and attempted to bring her back to life. With the pandemic hurting the economy, she was already struggling to pay her bills, including to cover medical expenses for her nephew who has a heart condition.

Then 13 days later, Iota destroyed what little she had managed to salvage. Juarez, a long-haul trucker who had gone on a trip, returned and tried to help. But both ended up getting laid off and they each started borrowing money to get by while trying to fix the house. Morazan borrowed around 340,000 Honduran Lempiras (US$14,000), while Juarez borrowed around 80,000 Lempiras (US$3,200).

They ended up sleeping in the streets of the San Pedro Sula neighborhood. Then she and Juarez started receiving threats with demands to shell out money or the house, even though Morazan owned it entirely, and it was still just a muddy shell. Shortly after, Morazan was beaten by assailants who stepped on her ankle and she feared for her life, she said. It was then that they decided to flee the country.

Being on the road for a year has not been easy. In southern Mexico, the couple said they were kidnapped by bandits and held for two days in a banana plantation until they gave up what little money they had.

“It was awful, ugly, ugly, ugly,” Morazan said.

They moved to Guadalajara, where they found work at the airport providing security, but were approached by drug dealers there so they quit and headed north to Tijuana. .

They slept on an inflatable mattress on top of folded cardboard boxes so they wouldn’t get soaked when the rain entered through the gaps in the shelter’s flimsy roof and soaked the floor. Morazan has been bitten by bed bugs and wears a diaper when the bathrooms at the shelter become so foul they make her want to vomit. The couple briefly worked collecting recyclables from a landfill.

“We hope the United States opens up because we won’t last here,” Juarez said.

One night, another migrant sleeping in a tent at the shelter was hit in the neck by a stray bullet during a gunfight that broke out in the run-down neighborhood.

“There are cartels here and a lot of crime,” Juarez said.

Morazan fights to keep spirits up. They took in a stray Chihuahua and named him Jabibi. She has tried to dress in clothes donated to the shelter, but competition among migrants has been fierce and often the best things are claimed seconds after being unloaded.

Morazan did her makeup while holding a mirror inside her tent because ‘I always like to feel pretty’, but she admitted she only bathed about every other day due to the number limited showers.

“It’s very difficult,” she said. “I only have memories in my head. At least those can’t be wiped out.

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