Welcome Home Project Provides Safe Housing for Displaced Families

by | Sep 14, 2023 | Formation, Reflections | 1 comment

In 1982 General Efrain Rios Montt came to power in Guatemala and launched a “scorched earth” operation against the indigenous Mayan population, systematically annihilating over 600 villages. Over 200,000 Guatemalans were killed or forcibly disappeared.

Some took refuge in the mountains as many walked into southern Mexico where refugee camps were established. The catechists organized the religious services and the children attended Mexican schools. The Mexican province of the Daughters of Charity served in several camps in Campeche.

By 1991, the refugees were organizing for their return to Guatemala under the auspices of the United Nations. On January 20, 1992, the first group of families crossed the border into Guatemala. A team of five Daughters, four from the United States and 1 Guatemalan from the Central American Province, accompanied the return to the Ixcan section of the province of Quiche. Those resettlement camps were internally organized by leadership teams with equitable distribution of arable land, local governance, schools organized by young teachers who received their credentials in Mexico, pastoral leadership by catechists with visits from Jesuits, Oblates, Daughters, Franciscans, support from Doctors Without Borders and other non-governmental organizations. Thirty years later, the camps are towns.

In 1998 a later return brought 150 families from Mexico to La Trinidad, Escuintla in the foothills of the Fuego Volcano. They learned to plant coffee and began a cooperative. On June 3, 2018, the volcano erupted, the deadliest eruption since 1929. Hundreds were buried in hot ash in one of villages, San Miguel los Lotes, and the coffee plantations were destroyed. Families from La Trinidad and other towns
were evacuated.

Leocadio Cruz and his family sought shelter near the city of La Antigua where they met the Daughters of Charity emergency response team.

At the end of 2018, The Vincentian Family started to work on the Welcome Home Project to provide safe housing for 32 displaced families in Parramos, Chimaltenango. Leocadio is a leader in the project and in 2021, he and his family moved into the new village of 32 homes and community spaces. He is skilled in farming and construction but has had difficulty finding a permanent job in Escuintla which is 25 miles away. He reflects that the years that his parents spent in the camps in Mexico kept the family safe and allowed him to create this new chapter for his wife Rosenda and their children.

For more information about the Welcome Home Project, https://www.facebook.com/solidaridadguate?mibextid=LQQJ4d


1 Comment

  1. Sr. Honora Remes


    This account is precious for archives and memories of the brave people who endured and helped one another through this hard time!