By David Ramos
Tania Vanessa Ávalos, the wife and mother of the migrants who died trying to cross into the US this week, has found strength in faith and prayer amid her grief, the local bishop has said.
Óscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria died June 23, drowning as they tried to cross the Rio Grande from Matamoros. Graphic images of their bodies floating on the riverbank circulated across the world after they were discovered.
The Salvadoran emigrants intended to apply for asylum in the US, but the international bridge from Matamoros was closed until Monday, so they chose to swim across the river, the New York Times reported.
According to the Times, the family had left their home, about 14 miles east of San Salvador, for economic reasons, and not to escape gang violence.
Tania, 21, is now at one of the migrant houses run by the Diocese of Matamoros.
Bishop Eugenio Andres Lira Rugarcia told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister agency: “I had the opportunity personally to talk with her and I can say I was edified by her witness.”
“She’s a woman of faith who indeed bears witness that that faith is making it possible for her to face this with Christian hope,” he said.
“She told me about the very painful, difficult moments she has gone through. But how, thanks be to God, she has sought in prayer consolation, light, and strength and I tell you that for me, talking to her has been a great witness, a witness of faith,” Bishop Lira added.
Matamoros, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, in Mexico’s Tamaulipas state, is among the major transit areas for migrants seeking to enter the US.
Tamaulipas is one of Mexico’s most violent states, but Bishop Lira emphasized that nevertheless, the faithful of the Matamoros diocese have not stopped showing their solidarity with the migrants.
The prelate thanked the “good example and witness of good people who even in the most difficult moments of violence in this area risked their lives, held out a hand to the migrants and continue to do so. Thanks be to God, the violence has decreased – not so much in Reynosa – but it has in the other eight districts that make up the Diocese of Matamoros.”
The Bishop of Matamoros said that the deaths of Óscar and Valeria “needs to lead us all to reflect: we’re talking about human lives, about people, not numbers. About people with their story, with their dreams, their hopes.”
“This shows us the human face of the migrant,” he said.
“Something very important is to discover in the phenomenon of migration names and faces … because if not, we can sometimes just dwell on statistics, on cold numbers. And in reality, it’s about people, each person with their own identity, their needs,” Bishop Lira stated.
Migrants, he said, are people who are trying to “seek something better for themselves or for their family. And they are willing to leave their land, their home, and set out on a quite dangerous adventure.”
Bishop Lira encouraged migrants to discover that “in the journey they have followed since they left their homes until the present, as well as the rest of their lives, God has always walked with them. He always walks with us, he does not leave us alone. And in those most difficult times he reaches out a hand to us, even through the people round about us.”
“I would ask you always to look at things through the eyes of faith, of the hope that does not disappoint, above all the great hope of the eternity that awaits us,” he said.
He asked the rest of society “to be aware of what kind of world we are building, and for every one of us to try to do our part in building a culture and a society that is able to recognize, respect, promote and defend life, the dignity and rights and also the duties of all people, without excluding anyone.”