Hector, 39, from the Mexican state of Guerrero, is probably a familiar face to people who have been to the Comedor in recent months. While he and his family are waiting to present themselves for asylum in Nogales, Hector has been serving as the portero—the doorman—of the Comedor. We share parts of his story here because we have been fortunate to have worked alongside Hector, and because his ethic of service and generosity to the KBI family—staff, volunteers, migrants, and the greater Nogales community—are expressed by so many of the migrants who come. Additionally, during 2019, migrants from the Mexican state of Guerrero made up the single largest geographic demographic at the Comedor; nearly 25% of the people we served at the KBI in 2019 were from Guerrero alone. Hector is one of thousands of people we have meet from the state this year.
Until 2014, Hector lived with his wife, Monica, and their two sons—Alberto, now 10, and Hector Jr., now 11—in a small city in Guerrero. He was the owner of a bodega that sold beauty products, and through his business, was able to support his family. However, in 2014, violence arrived to Hector’s community, and the mafia killed one of Hector’s family members and aggression was turned toward Hector. He and his family fled to another state in Mexico, Morelos, where they lived for five years and where Hector found work in a factory. In 2019, though, the situation in Morelos become untenable as well, and the family was forced to leave as their lives were once again in danger. In early October, they arrived to Nogales to seek asylum, and they have been waiting for their number to be called ever since. The family rents an apartment not far from the Comedor; it doesn’t have gas, a kitchen, heating, or cooling, but it’s a place of their own while they wait.
Though Hector doesn’t feel wholly at ease in Nogales—he worries about safety after dark, and the disruption to his sons’ education, among other things—he describes his time at the Comedor as something that has been a blessing to his life and that of his family. In November, Hector began serving as the doorman: he opens the door to the Comedor to people in an orderly fashion, makes sure that people who are arriving for the first time get the services they need, maintains the list for doctor’s visits, keeps a tally of the total number of people served daily, and helps dispense items that people need, such as soap, detergent, and toothbrushes. It’s an essential job, and Hector does it with grace, warmth, and ease. Hector enjoys the work, and consistently looks for other ways to help, as well—he says, “I enjoy seeing how I can best help: serving water, cleaning the tables, washing dishes.” The ethic of service was one instilled in him from an early age; it’s how his parents engaged with the world and they, and their practice of Catholicism, instilled in him the necessity of serving others. And Hector is grateful for all that he has learned at the Comedor, especially meeting people from all different parts of the world, migrants and volunteers alike.
Hector thinks his family’s number will be called in the middle of January. He has mixed emotions about the transition: while presenting for asylum and seeking safety and stability is the realization of a long-held goal, there is a sense of loss as he leaves the Comedor, leaving behind the friends he’s made here, and the sense of purpose he enjoys while serving as the doorman. The family’s plan is to live with his wife’s family in Denver, from where they hope to pursue their asylum claim. Hector is a little bit anxious as the family’s number draws nearer because he’s seen how, over the months he’s been in Nogales, border policy gets increasingly harsh. “It seems like every month or two there is a change from the U.S. government that makes it harder for people to ask for asylum and to seek safety. I saw the arrival of MPP and now I am meeting people who have been sent back to Nogales under this policy.”
His dreams are primarily for the well-being of his sons: that they are safe, stable, and that they are able to continue their studies. He describes Alberto as a “caring child, the joker of the family…he’s hyper and so much fun. He is very interested in robotics.” And Hector, Jr. is similarly caring, but “he’s the determined one, very focused and intelligent. He’s interested in computers and technology.” Once the family is settled in Denver, and if—as Hector hopes and prays for—their asylum case goes favorably, he would like to return to KBI for several months every year, to keep serving the people of the border and to see his friends here.