María found love online at the end of 2014. She met Marcos, her current partner, on Facebook. “Actually, I feel as if I still don’t know him because he’s not here,” she says, by “here” she means Mexico, the birthplace of her current partner, where she currently lives. “He’s from Jalisco but lives in the U.S.,” she explains.
Marcos sent her a friend request and that’s where it all began: the hellos, the constant messaging, virtual friendship. “So we began talking and became friends, as time passed, like three months later he said, ‘hey, I know you’re far but I feel something for you and want you to be my girlfriend.’” The proposal shook Maria. She didn’t respond right away, she thought about it for a bit and then accepted the love proposed by a Mexican migrant in the U.S.
Two months later, she received a marriage proposal through a video call. “He told me “I want you to be my wife because you’re lovely and hard-working,’ and I said ‘Oh no!’ and blushed but said to myself ‘I think he wants something serious because he proposed marriage despite the distance’,” recalls Maria with the same excitement she felt four years ago, when she said yes even if they hadn’t met in person.
In a context lacking opportunities, filled with insecurity, Maria and her partner planned her and her daughter’s trip to Jalisco, Mexico. Maria’s decision wasn’t unique in a country with a high immigration rate. In 2017, 1,117,355 people emigrated from Guatemala, according to UN
figures, which means that 6.6% of the country's population lives abroad. More than half of them are migrants, 50.26% in total, were women.
Maria first tried to do approach the legal process of migrating, "do it correctly," she says, but it was practically impossible. "From a distance, my partner was helping me with the process and the paperwork, but unfortunately in the Mexican embassy they denied me a visa." She then tried to get hold of a tourist visa but did not succeed either.
After many attempts, Maria got tired of the rejection and became discouraged, she stopped insisting. During these procedures, she met a taxi driver, who would later become a key figure in her entry into Mexican territory. “One day I told the taxi driver: I'm trying to go to Mexico but they don't give me a visa,’ and he said ‘hey, I have been to Mexico, I have family in Mexico, what if you skip customs?’"
She tried again, this time following the taxi driver's suggestion. She processed a "border permit", that lasts only three days and was the document the taxi driver used to visit his family. She didn’t succeed the first time, she got nervous and couldn’t answer the questions asked by the immigration agents. She had to go to another part of the border for a second attempt. This time her answers were more agile.
María and her daughter crossed, migrated, in April 2015. They have not returned to Guatemala since. The taxi driver drove from the southern border to Chiapas, where two relatives of Marcos were waiting for them to drive them to Jalisco, on a road full of turns and uncertainty, were checkpoints and collection booths spread along the way. Maria and her daughter slept to avoid being told something, asked to step out of the car, or checked. “Those who were driving were afraid that they would be told something, that they were trafficking people and get arrested for that,” she says.