Haiti mourns 11 women from a deadly voyage near Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico (AP) —The casket is lined up one by one in front of friends and family who did not know that many of the 11 Haitian girls and women preparing to fill had decided to flee their country. Was done. ..

They were all teenagers, mothers, students and college graduates on a heavily overloaded boat caught last month in the open ocean northwest of Puerto Rico.

This was one of the deadliest voyages in the region in recent months. Boats carry an estimated 60 to 75 migrants, 11 of whom have died, at least 12 are missing and 38 have been rescued. Thirty-six of them fled a highly volatile country in the fight against the surge in poverty and violence.

Mourners lifted their mobile phones in churches and rain graveyards on Wednesday and live-streamed masses and burials on social media. They were afraid to return to Haiti, where they couldn’t afford to fly to Puerto Rico, and to be arrested if they traveled, but were illegal to the mainland U.S., hoping to say goodbye to victims, including two girls. Zoomed in on a particular casket for Haitian immigrants living in, 15 and 16 years old.

“Today we bury their remains, but not their lives and hopes,” said a man who attended the worship, closing his eyes tightly before tears, so he held the ceremony. Said one of the five priests.

The man, Clown Samedi, lost his 23-year-old sister and six cousins ​​during the voyage. He flew from West Palm Beach to Puerto Rico at the prompt of local Haitian leader Leonard Profile, who helped identify the bodies, housed and fed all those who arrived for the funeral.

“If you have never lived in Haiti, you don’t know what the hardships are, you don’t know what the misery is,” Profile said.

According to the United Nations, countries with a population of more than 11 million have been fighting a 180% increase in kidnappings and a 17% increase in murders over the past year. After the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7, gangsters fought over territory and gained power, killing and raping dozens of people, including women and children, in recent months.

Tens of thousands of Haitians lost their homes in the battle of the gang, and access to the northern and southern regions of the country was cut off. The latter suffered a magnitude 7.2 earthquake last August, killing at least 2,000 people.

Haiti’s exacerbating situation has prompted thousands of people to flee their country, despite the dangers of illegal trafficking trips, which are often fatal. Some pay to reach Puerto Rico from the neighboring Dominican Republic across the dangerous Mona Passage, while others are dropped off in Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands to reach the United States.

In late May, more than 840 Haitians on a boat landed in Cuba. This is the largest such single arrival in recent history. Meanwhile, hundreds of Haitians have arrived in Florida in the last few months after landing.

U.S. officials also report a significant increase in the number of Haitian migrants detained throughout the Caribbean compared to the previous year. The majority of travelers are men, and the deaths of 11 women are even more rare.

Those who mourn them said that other deadly voyages are inevitable in the coming months.

“This never ends,” said Samedi, who lost seven relatives in a recent deadly voyage. “This is neither the first nor the last.”

Most of the migrants who died in the sea and had their bodies recovered are cremated, but local Haitian leader Profile said the Haitians did not believe in cremation and for whatever reason the bodies could not be returned home. Said he fought for proper cremation. They criticized it as government bureaucracy. They donated time and resources to Puerto Rican preservatives, funeral halls and clothing designers to help a female family who turned out to be a rare farewell after a deadly migrant voyage. Thank you for giving me.

Part of Wednesday’s Mass was held in Haitian Creole, with a national flag hung on each casket, and a framed photo of each girl or woman balanced on it. Some are selfies and some are posing. One of them has his hands on his hips, a wide smile and a bright pink scarf around his head.

Two of the women were 31 years old. One had a son and was studying law, and the other was studying accounting. Another victim was a 28-year-old college graduate who studied business administration and had two sons, the family said.

Upon arriving at the cemetery, the mourners faced heavy rain, walking in the thick red mud, holding hands, grabbing damp tissue, and placing their palms before dropping the casket to the ground. I buried the women. One woman lamented until another surrounded her and began singing her hymns to calm her.

“We have been suffering for centuries and no one has heard,” added one woman, who has not lost hope. She “believes that you will see better Haiti before you close her eyes.”