REYNOSA, Mexico — For Fernando Solis, a migrant, helping to construct a camp for migrants in Reynosa, Mexico, is meaningful. Solis is laying bricks on a 10-foot wall. It’s hard work but is something he does happily as it will help other migrants like him.
“This is the work of God. It’s a shelter for our migrant brothers who will come and for the future,” said Solis, smiling.
Migrants currently staying at the Senda de Vida shelter (Spanish for “path of life”) are the ones building the wall, which encircles a whole baseball field right in the banks of the Rio Grande in one of Reynosa’s poorest areas. There, even children are doing what they can, helping their parents with the voluntary work.
Construction is going on around the clock, but they stop when it gets dark as a precaution. The area is filled with gangs and local criminal organizations who prey on migrants, sometimes kidnapping or extorting them. Alberto Martinez, the master builder and also a migrant, told Spectrum News 1 that they are in a hurry.
“We had a few setbacks but they are resolved and we are making progress. The longest it would take to get this done will be next week. We’ll close off the field,” said Martinez.
Someone who personally knows how badly this new camp is needed is Mayte Oliva. She stayed in a tent in the square for four months before being accepted at Senda de Vida. She is also involved in the project and is an assistant to Pastor Hector Vela, the director and the one responsible for this new camp. Olivia drives daily with him to the baseball field donated by the Reynosa city government. This field is one complex of five in complete abandonment, but for Oliva, what is important is what they will make of it.
"It’s very satisfactory. In fact right now, we’re gonna go see all of our friends and break a leg to get this done. We are all doing this voluntarily,” said Oliva.
The last time we saw Oliva, in October 2021, she was still staying at the square where she also got involved in serving her migrant community. Oliva became the right-hand woman of American Jonathan Selby in his humanitarian labor aimed at bringing joy to migrant children. He sang for them and organized activities with a Christian theme.
Today, Selby is gone but Olivia is still at the border waiting for a chance to join her daughter in the United States while helping others. Oliva has volunteered to stay at night at the construction site with others to keep watch over the construction materials and equipment. When she arrived, she went straight to Martinez to ask him what he needed. He asked us to take a picture with her. The solidarity is more than evident here.
“We feel happy when we see each other because we are all like brothers, we all treat each other like family,“ he said.
And it’s indeed going to be a big family. As many as 5,000 migrants are expected to be moved here by Mexican authorities, the majority of whom are currently crowding the Plaza de la Republica Square. Now with the reinstatement of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the Remain in Mexico policy, American and Mexican NGOs expect that number to rise steadily.