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How Tijuana's Little Haiti survives

"Neighbors treat us different."

Little Haiti II in El pedregal de Santa Julia neighborhood - Image by Luis Guitierrez
Little Haiti II in El pedregal de Santa Julia neighborhood

125 Haitian families have settled in a plot of property of the nuns called Misioneras Franciscanas de Nuestra Senora De la Paz in El pedregal de Santa Julia neighborhood, four miles away from Tijuana’s downtown.

The settlement started in December last year and it has been named by neighbors the Little Haiti II. Here at least 300 Haitian nationals live in tents. Two classrooms used to teach catechism with two small kitchens and portable toilets is what Sister Maru Espinoza, in charge of the place, had in hand to help them out.

Sister Maru said that they have formed a strong community. “They’re all between fellow countrymen. That’s an advantage. Despite their not knowing each other, they learned how to live together and help themselves. Sleeping on the ground in tents. Getting cold and wet when it rains are the disadvantages we have here”.

Another disadvantage that is repeated with migrant childhood is their absence from classrooms. Most of the inhabitants are children.

Wolves Vila is a 10-year-old who has learned three languages during his passage through Brazil and Chile since he and his family left Haiti. Although he lacks education he has lost no hope of someday becoming a doctor. He’s important in the community due to his role as a translator.

Most of the inhabitants are children.

“I like it here because I play, but I don't like it too much because I’m not going to school. My last time in a school was back in Brazil. I want to cross to the United States so I can study there.”

Sister Maru said that neighbors are kind and helpful sometimes. They have supported them, but they have kept their distance from them.

For Wolves there’s something strange in that he just plays with kids from his own country. “I feel neighbors treat us different, and I feel sad because of it.”

For adults, the situation is difficult, due to their lack of specific documents; most of the men are looking for work. One or two weeks’ work mostly in construction is the kind of work they have gotten.

Feshes D’ Fouche, 44, explained that in his three years in Chile he worked in a formal job as a construction worker, but here in Tijuana their jobs don’t last long.

“I had a job for just one month. When I got hired they made me sign my job resignation before actually starting to work. I once got robbed when going early in the morning to take the bus to my job. I miss times in Chile. Things were different there, but you can’t make a living there as a foreigner”.

Right now, these people are been helped by the Haitian Bridge Alliance. And because of this and their belief of this being the only chance to cross, they refuse to protest against the U.S. government migrant politics, as have other central American nationals.

For now, Sister Maru said that they are focused on bringing English classes to the kids.

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Little Haiti II in El pedregal de Santa Julia neighborhood - Image by Luis Guitierrez
Little Haiti II in El pedregal de Santa Julia neighborhood

125 Haitian families have settled in a plot of property of the nuns called Misioneras Franciscanas de Nuestra Senora De la Paz in El pedregal de Santa Julia neighborhood, four miles away from Tijuana’s downtown.

The settlement started in December last year and it has been named by neighbors the Little Haiti II. Here at least 300 Haitian nationals live in tents. Two classrooms used to teach catechism with two small kitchens and portable toilets is what Sister Maru Espinoza, in charge of the place, had in hand to help them out.

Sister Maru said that they have formed a strong community. “They’re all between fellow countrymen. That’s an advantage. Despite their not knowing each other, they learned how to live together and help themselves. Sleeping on the ground in tents. Getting cold and wet when it rains are the disadvantages we have here”.

Another disadvantage that is repeated with migrant childhood is their absence from classrooms. Most of the inhabitants are children.

Wolves Vila is a 10-year-old who has learned three languages during his passage through Brazil and Chile since he and his family left Haiti. Although he lacks education he has lost no hope of someday becoming a doctor. He’s important in the community due to his role as a translator.

Most of the inhabitants are children.

“I like it here because I play, but I don't like it too much because I’m not going to school. My last time in a school was back in Brazil. I want to cross to the United States so I can study there.”

Sister Maru said that neighbors are kind and helpful sometimes. They have supported them, but they have kept their distance from them.

For Wolves there’s something strange in that he just plays with kids from his own country. “I feel neighbors treat us different, and I feel sad because of it.”

For adults, the situation is difficult, due to their lack of specific documents; most of the men are looking for work. One or two weeks’ work mostly in construction is the kind of work they have gotten.

Feshes D’ Fouche, 44, explained that in his three years in Chile he worked in a formal job as a construction worker, but here in Tijuana their jobs don’t last long.

“I had a job for just one month. When I got hired they made me sign my job resignation before actually starting to work. I once got robbed when going early in the morning to take the bus to my job. I miss times in Chile. Things were different there, but you can’t make a living there as a foreigner”.

Right now, these people are been helped by the Haitian Bridge Alliance. And because of this and their belief of this being the only chance to cross, they refuse to protest against the U.S. government migrant politics, as have other central American nationals.

For now, Sister Maru said that they are focused on bringing English classes to the kids.

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Four miles east*

Four miles west is the ocean.

June 6, 2022

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