The Minister General visits the refuge-house for migrants “The 72”

As part of his visit to the friars of the Province of San Felipe de Jesús in Mexico, the Minister General, Fr. Michael A. Perry also called at “The 72”, a refuge house for migrants.

The name, “The 72” refers to the number of persons at the Central American centre who were massacred in the Mexican State of Tamaulipas in the month of August 2010. In the main room of the house you can see on the red wall a painting of a large cross of San Damiano and in the centre another painting of a well which represents the migrants who were killed. On the same wall hang 72 small cross, some of which have the names of the victims of the massacre.

The house is located in the town of Tenosique, in the Mexican State of Tabasco, just a few kilometres from the frontier with Guatemala. Whilst the Minister General was there, there were around one hundred and fifty migrants and a little more than twenty volunteers of eight different nationalities, amongst whom were three sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. In this place the migrants can “ not only find bread and mattresses on which to sleep, but also the embrace of solidarity and a blessing for the woman who give birth and where the dream of a better life begins to be realized” (2016 Report). From its foundation in 2011 the 72 has given refuge to more than seventy thousand persons.

The 72 is not only for the migrants who come here with the aim of reaching the United States. There are also kidnap victims, victims of group violence, sexual violence and death threats crimes which they have occurred not only in Central America but in Mexico itself. They are welcomed here as a refuge from their suffering. They all receive humanitarian assistance and given a place to sleep, food to eat and medical and psychological assistance as well as legal advice.

Fr. Michael greeted the migrants who were present and spoke with the managers and other volunteers, led by Fr. Tomás González, founder and leader of the project. He was also able to listen to some of the painful experiences that the migrants had suffered. He congratulated the volunteers on their work, encouraging them to continue, knowing that through their efforts as well as giving support to the many persons that came there they were laying the foundations of a new society based on love. Finally he emphasized the importance of the 72 as a privileged space for the formation of the Friars Minor and in conversation with the Provincial Minister, he agreed to propose it as a course of formation and service to the brothers of the different entities of the Order.

After the meeting at the house – Shelter, the Minister General visited an agricultural business run by the 72, which as well as being used for biological cultivation, gives temporary work to some migrants. Here he planted a Ceiba tree, which was sacred for the ancient Maya people, as its height and profound roots are symbols of the union between heaven and earth and a sign of life, grandeur, goodness strength and unity.