The Mexican banks of the Suchiate river dawned Sunday with a heavy presence of immigration agents in place to enforce Mexico’s new limits on all but essential travel at its shared border with Guatemala.
Dozens of immigration agents lined the riverside asking those who landed on the giant innertube rafts that carry most of the cross-border traffic for documentation and turning many back.
But those turned away weren’t migrants, they were the small-time Guatemalan merchants and residents from Tecun Uman, across the river, who buy in bulk in Mexico to re-sell in Guatemala or purchase household items when the exchange rate favors it.
“They haven’t let us enter because they think we’re migrants when really we’re only coming to shop,” said Amalia Vázquez, a Guatemalan citizen with her baby tied to her back and seven other relatives accompanying her. Vázquez said her family travels the 100 kilometers monthly from Quetzaltenango to buy plastic items and sweets they re-sell at home.
After a negotiation, immigration agents allowed her sister and another relative to pass, but they had to leave their IDs with agents while they shopped. Nearby, other agents turned away a man who said he was just coming to buy his medicine.