Author and journalist Óscar Martínez kicked off Friday’s Crisis in Context Conference on Central American immigration with the story of a mother and her 2-year-old child’s journey to the United States atop cargo trains.

Martínez, a Salvadoran journalist who wrote a book titled “The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail,” focused on the reasons many Salvadorans choose to migrate and the role the United States played in that decision.  His keynote address was given entirely in Spanish, with English subtitles. 

He spoke about the journey along the migrant trail, and also highlighted the people who weren’t able make it all of the way. He focused mainly on stories of people because he said “despair is stronger than the administration of justice.” 

Martínez stated that he would not share too many figures, as they are easy to Google. However, he added that since 2005, the three northern countries of Central America became three of the five countries with the most homicides in the world.

Martínez explained to the audience why people choose such dangerous methods of migration, and why they would want to move to a place they would potentially not be welcomed.

“Solidarity is usually a privilege reserved for those who are not suffering, those assembled in classrooms such as this one,” Martínez said.

His talk ended with a panel Q&A session that included Marcia Martínez of Cafamipo of Honduras and Friar Tomas Gonzalez of “La 72” of Mexico. Cafamipo and “La 72”are both organizations that support individuals on the migrant trail and their families.

Mark White, an Ann Arbor resident said he hoped the event would have a larger impact.

“It was awesome to get people who are working in very grassroots ways working directly on this issue on the ground, to bring them into a setting like this, which is worlds away from their day-to-day,” White said. “This is part of the power of the University to do something like this to raise awareness and have meaningful discussion, and to hopefully move towards meaningful action.”

LSA junior Patrick Mullen-Coyoy said he thought the event provided a good opportunity for people in this area to better understand the situation. He said he thought more students need to come out to events like this one.

“With issues like these it’s important that as students to, on the most basic level, educate ourselves,” he said.

The lecture was hosted by the Joint Doctoral Program in Social Work and Social Science with the support of Rackham’s Global Engagement of Doctoral Education Program.

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