Chepe is from Honduras and worked with Asylum Access Mexico to acquire his refugee status in the country. He now lives in Tijuana, Baja California, where he has been able to continue his passion for soccer refereeing thanks to a local soccer club. He graciously shared his experience of social integration in Mexico with us.
Tell us how you got involved in refereeing in Mexico
I used to belong to the National College of Referees in Honduras at a professional level. When I arrived in Tijuana, a colleague at work told me to go to one of the leagues.
Little by little I have learned how things work in Mexico. I started in the first division and a week ago I was in the semifinals of the second division; they gave me recognition and I felt great. They told me that I had won a medal for the work I had done. I used a blue jersey that is from Honduras and the audience was shouting my name — they were shouting “Chepe! Chepe!”
How has refereeing helped you?
It is something that I am passionate about because as a referee you learn to be honest. If you mess up you have the commitment to do things better and you have to try and be honorable. This helped me a lot in life because it needs physical and mental health—you have to learn to look after yourself and have a healthy life.
I have wonderful friendships and now they recognize me by my name and for me, that is a commitment that makes me feel really good.
What message do you have for other refugees arriving in Mexico?
I want to say to refugees that all of us have a passion for something. In Mexico, there are so many things and you have to find opportunities and keep your head held high. You need to take it step by step, and the most important thing is to do the best you can to keep moving forward. We don’t need to limit ourselves by being in a country that is different from our own. We have to contribute because it is our land now and we have to feel at home and overcome our challenges. We must feel like part of the Mexican community, part of the group.
Chepe’s story shows the importance of community integration and what that can mean to someone who has been forcibly displaced from their home country. In Mexico, our Hospitality Route supports refugee communities to access employment, education, healthcare and other services so that they can focus on pursuing their passions and making Mexico their home.