Refugees in mexico

Pablo’s story: Destination barbershop

Industrious from the start, Pablo began styling hair at the age of 14 and opened his own barbershop in Honduras when he was 22. His customers confided in him, and he would listen to them without judgment or criticism. But after a falling out with one of his customers, who also happened to be a powerful gang member, Pablo’s life took a turn for the worse.

“Honduras is under the control of gangs and organized crime. Because of the death threats we received, we had to get out. That’s how it works over there, you don’t have a choice. You either wait until they kill you, or you find a way out.”

Pablo’s mother gave him some money and told him to leave before it was too late.

He and his partner took a bus to Guatemala and then the Mexican border, where they crossed the river by boat and rode a van to the nearest town, Palenque. When they arrived, they were out of cash. Along the way, they had been extorted by almost everyone they encountered. To make matters worse, they were stopped by immigration officers, detained, and deported back to Honduras.

Their escape had been in vain.

As soon as they returned to Honduras, fearing for her son’s safety, Pablo’s mother collected more money and sent them back on their way.

This time, they were better prepared. With tips collected from other migrants during their first journey, they managed to avoid the immigration officers, reach one of Palenque’s migrant shelters, and approach Asylum Access Mexico (AAMX) for help in applying for asylum.

Within days of arriving, Pablo went out in search of a job. In Honduras, he had been a barber, but in Mexico he had difficulty finding a job because of discrimination. Eventually, he found one in a barbershop, but the owner underpaid him because Pablo was “illegal”.

After four months, Pablo was frustrated. He and his partner were barely scraping by and he had a long walk each day to a job where he was being exploited.

Then came a lucky break. Almost daily he would stop to pick up a few groceries and chat with the shopkeeper. She regularly inquired why he didn’t own his own barbershop, to which he replied he didn’t have the funds for it. One day when he arrived at her store she simply handed him the sum he needed:a loan of 8,000 pesos ($420 USD).

“[My partner and I] thought it must be God, because who gives you a loan without being asked and without really knowing you? With the 8,000 pesos, I rented a little space, bought a chair and equipment. Within the first month, I started repaying my debt.”

His barbershop was up and running. But, when news got around that Pablo had opened his own business, competing businesses began to threaten him and even sent authorities to his shop. Fortunately, his work with Asylum Access gave him the legal standing he needed to defend his right to operate a business.

“I wouldn’t have been able to open my business without the documents. [The other business owners] really pressured me to close but I persevered, and once my documents were approved, they couldn’t close my business. Thanks to the lawyers at AAMX, I’m still here, working.”

After only seven months, Pablo’s business is thriving. He’s paid off his debt, bought a motorcycle and hopes to expand his business once he and his partner feel more stable. Eventually, he wants to bring his mother and sister to Mexico as well.

As a barber, Pablo has made many friends. Today, when he walks through Palenque he’s greeted and welcomed by his neighbors. While the difficulties he faced upon leaving his home are still fresh in his memory, Pablo is optimistic and grateful.

“It’s hard to arrive in a new country, to not know anyone. But I’ve always believed that when someone is dedicated to what they want to achieve, they can achieve it. It was hard at first…but God answered me. Now I have my business, my partner and I have found peace….I feel blessed and am thankful to AAMX for their constant support.”