Among the 53 migrants killed in Texas was this highly educated Honduran couple

Alejandro Miguel Andino Caballero had almost completed his university degree in marketing. His fiancée, Margie Támara Paz Grajeda, had a degree in economics. Both saw education as a means of launching a career and overcoming humble origins in Honduras, where endemic poverty, crime and corruption have long choked the roads of social progress.

But few doors opened for the ambitious young couple. The pandemic and two major hurricanes in recent years have only dampened the economic outlook in one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere.

So like many of their compatriots, Caballero, 23, and Paz Grajeda, 24, left for the United States. Caballero’s 18-year-old brother joined them, who had also lost hope for his future in Honduras.

“Here they had no chance to advance,” the men’s mother, Karen Caballero, said by phone Friday from her home in Las Vegas, Honduras. “Here they were denied opportunities. That’s why they left.”

Karen Caballero lost two sons in the tractor-trailer in Texas.

(Delmer Martinez/Associated Press)

The three were among 53 people — most, if not all, from Central America and Mexico — who died after being smuggled in a blistering tractor-trailer discovered Monday on the outskirts of San Antonio. It was one of the deadliest human trafficking tragedies in American history.

As authorities continue to identify the victims and inform relatives, officials have slowly released the names of those who died in the large rig — dubbed the “trailer of death” in the Latin American press. Their stories have resonated deeply in a region where, despite the dangers, emigration has long been the surest route to upward mobility in many communities.

Fernando Jose Redondo Caballero.

Fernando Jose Redondo Caballero was 18 years old.

(Karen Caballero)

Those who leave are pushers, seeking opportunities, seeking to improve their lot, and helping relatives return home in a time-honored tradition. Some aboard the tractor-trailer came from rural areas and had little opportunity to consider professional callings. Two of the dead were 13-year-old cousins ​​from an indigenous community in northern Guatemala.

The case of the Caballero brothers and Paz Grajeda is clear. They do not fit the narrow stereotype of smuggled migrants.
Despite economic hardship, Caballero and his betrothed tried to stay in their homeland, studying and hoping for a decent paying job. At a time when US policies aim to create jobs in Central America to discourage emigration, their story dramatizes how even many talented young people aspiring to careers in their own country have been thwarted.

“They had dreams, they had goals, but because of the lack of work, they felt like they would never get a chance,” a tearful Karen Cabello told reporters outside her home this week.

Caballero and Paz Grajeda met in high school and have been together ever since, says Karen Caballero. Both left their hometowns to attend college in the town of San Pedro Sula, 100 miles north of Las Vegas.

But Paz Grajeda’s degree only earned her a low-paying job in a call center. Caballero also struggled to find work, occasionally helping out at the family restaurant in Las Vegas, a farming and mining town of 26,000.

In the Latin American press, photos circulated from social media accounts in which Paz Grajeda navigates a kayak, she and Caballero hug, and the couple and Caballero’s younger brother, Fernando José Redondo Caballero, loaded with luggage and smiling at the camera, although it It was unclear when and where the images were taken.

The mother told BBC Mundo that it was Fernando who was initially excited to go to the United States. Unlike his older sibling, he had dropped out of school and showed little interest in academics.

He said to his mother, “Imagine, Mom, if there’s no work here for those who study, what’s left for someone like me who doesn’t study?”

His older brother and his wife-to-be eventually signed up. “We planned it all as a family,” said Karen Caballero.

Paz Grajeda had another motivation: she needed money to help her mother pay for cancer treatment.

“I’m in bad health and that’s why she made this trip, for my health,” her mother, Gloria Paz, told Honduras newspaper La Prensa. “I didn’t want her to go. I’d rather she kept working where she was, in the call center. But she left and said, “No, Mother, I’m going to find a good job to pay for your surgery.” †

A relative in the United States offered to help the brothers fund the trip north, the Associated Press reported.

The three departed on June 4, with Karen Caballero accompanying them as far as Guatemala. She said she wanted to be there to say goodbye.

“On my mind was the thought that years could pass before I see them again,” she told La Prensa. “Because when you go to the United States, it’s hard to come back. I knew it could be five, ten, fifteen years before we would be reunited.”

In those final moments together, Caballero said she reassured Alejandro, who was nervous about the trip.

A woman and a man smile at each other.

Margie Tamara Paz Grajeda and Alexander Miguel Andino Knight in Honduras.

(Karen Caballero)

“Nothing will happen,” she told him. “You are not the first and you will not be the last person to travel to the United States.”

She said goodbye to them: “I gave them my blessing and said, ‘Children, put on well’ the other side [the other side] because you couldn’t do that here.’ †

She kept in touch via WhatsApp as the three traveled north through Mexico. She last heard from them last Saturday, after crossing Texas.

They were waiting for transport north.

McDonnell is a Times staff writer. Sanchez is a special correspondent.

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