TAPACHULA, Mexico -- I arrived here Friday evening after a day of successful and mostly stress-free air travel from Spokane. I'm the advance party, so to speak, for four Washington State University journalism students who received Backpack Journalism Program fellowships for one-week of international reporting experience. The students will be arriving Tuesday evening.
The students, who I will tell you more about in future installments, have chosen to write about Guatemalan migrants who are trying to move through Mexico to reach the United States. The team also will be reporting on drug trafficking and what Mexicans have to say about current events, including the migrants and prospects for a border wall.
I spent late afternoon driving around Tapachula after exploring the ocean community of Puerto Madero, which is 17 miles from Tapachula. Madero has a population of just under 10,000,while Tapachula's is more than 320,000. I walked along the rocky shores of the Pacific Ocean, the sea mist filling the air and the waves crashing hard against the rocks. Trust me, getting soaked by the spray was well worth it on a 95-degree afternoon.
Motorbikes are a common mode of transportation in Madero and pickup trucks are packed with men. Tapachula and Madero are located in the southwest state Chiapas and Tapachula is Mexico's main border city with Guatemala. The U.S. has no embassy or consulate in Chiapas, but the U.S. ambassador to Mexico recently visited the area.
I have only two years of high school Spanish, so I find myself often saying, "No habla Espanol" to a clerk or merchant. So far, it has not been a major problem, although learning the streets and how to get from Point A to Point B will be an ongoing challenge.
The Hotel San Francisco, located in a gritty but quiet urban area of Tapachula, is our headquarters. The hotel is clean and modern. Our fixer and translator are meeting me at noon tomorrow to begin tightening up details of our work and the specific interviews that they've helped us line up.
It seems that my laptop isn't importing all my new photos, so I'll try again with my next post on Sunday.