A resplendent Spanish name. (The Amílcar part is as old as Carthaginian.) But Ángel is a black man from Honduras, a member of the downtrodden Garifuna people. They are descendants of African slaves and Carib and Arawak Indians, who live along the coast from Belize to Honduras and have an interesting culture, a famous kind of music and dance called punta, and a language marked by differences between some of the words used by men and women.
Ángel’s eight-year-old son was dying of cancer. This was in 2009. Ángel conceived the desperate hope of getting to the U.S.A. and earning enough money for the medical treatment. It’s something like two thousand miles across Mexico, and a horrendous journey for undocumented migrants, who get harassed, arrested, beaten, murdered – not long ago a whole trainload of such migrants was kidnapped and never seen again. Ángel managed to get all the way to Tijuana at Mexico’s far end, at the border with California. A “coyote,” a people-smuggler, who probably took most of the money Ángel had, promised to help him across this dangerous and heavily guarded border, but told him to wait a few days. Perhaps the coyote got a kickback from the police, and perhaps the police needed to claim a solution for some case, as so often happens with the police and not only in Mexico. Armed Mexican policemen stormed the house where Ángel was staying. They kicked him, struck him in the ribs, punched him in the stomach, forced him to walk on his knees; took him to a military base, where he could hear the screams of other detainees. They put a plastic bag over his head until he was almost asphyxiated, stripped him, forced him to lick clean the shoes of other prisoners, calling him pinche negro, “fucking nigger.” The torture went on till he signed a written confession to a charge of being a member of a criminal gang. He later told a judge that this was nonsense. But he was thrown into prison, which was probably not pleasant for one who had contradicted the police. It was a remote prison, hundreds of miles south of Tijuana and out along a road from Tepic. He was never tried; was longering in “pre-trial detention.” When he had been there six months, his child died. He’s still in prison, five years later.
One of the cases for which we got people to sign letters at our Amnesty International group’s pleasant cream-tea event yesterday in a garden overlooking the sea, asking the Mexican government to reopen the case of Ángel Colón and let him go home. These things make one angry, but when appealing to these officials (as at www.humanrightsletters.com) we always have to bite back our anger and write courteously.
Some advise me that I should stick to astronomy in this blog; what do you think? – you could leave a comment. Anyway, back to astronomy next, there’s another nice sky sight a few evenings from now.