Tuesday 11 March 2014

Las Patronas: Mexican Women's Group Aiding Migrants

Norma Romero Vázquez, director of Las Patronas,
receives National Human Rights Award from
President Enrique Peña Nieto

Norma Romero Vázquez, member of Las Patronas—a group of women who work in support of migrants who cross Mexico on their way to the United States—regrets how “Mexico has become fractured,” marked “by violence, impunity, apathy, discrimination, and by the lack of real opportunity.”

Upon receiving the National Prize for Human Rights from the hands of President Enrique Peña Nieto, the activist maintained that “rather than advancing, we have deteriorated, because the idea of progress sustained by taking advantage of those who have less is nothing more than a violation of human rights.”

On Thursday afternoon Romero Vázquez received a medal, acknowledgment, and a cash prize for her work helping undocumented migrants. 

Day in and day out, a group of 14 people, including her, give food and water to foreign migrants who travel hanging on to The Beast—the cargo train—when they pass through Amatián, Veracruz. She also deplored how, in reality, migrants are not considered as people, “but as merchandise that can be exchanged, negotiated, and eliminated without thought.”

In the event at Los Pinos, which also awarded honorable mention to Manuel Estrada Juárez for his commitment to the search for disappeared infants, Norma Romero urged authorities to afford better opportunities to its citizens and work together with civil society.

Additionally, the activist spoke of the kidnappings suffered by migrants, and the insecurity that dominates life in the region where she lives.

On his behalf, Peña Nieto emphasized that his security and justice policies have the protection of human rights at their core; he also mentioned that this year the complaints against the Army for human rights violations have been cut in half. 

Raúl Plascencia, president of the National Commission on Human Rights, stated that migration should be a personal decision rather than one motivated by scarcity and violence. He also condemned the attitude that criminalizes undocumented migrants. 

Lastly, Peña Nieto highlighted the case of South Africa’s ex-president Nelson Mandela and his transformation of the life of his country, long before becoming president, which demonstrates that one can fight for human rights from any and all levels. 

Mandela was a leader, Peña Nieto continued, who defended the fundamental rights of his people and worked for a just nation.

“For this work Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, one year before becoming president of his country. This teaches us an important lesson, as does the case of Norma Romero, that people need not occupy a public position to help others, but need only possess firm convictions and values.”

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