By Alasdair Baverstock / Reuters
In Baja California, Gabino Bautista yearns for his homeland thousands of miles south of the northern Mexican state, but the bullet wounds in his body remind him he can never go back.
Bautista is one of about 15,000 members of the Triqui indigenous tribe forced by drug-related violence to flee mountainous San Juan Copala in Mexico’s southern Oaxaca state for a fresh start, only to find life in northern Mexico is worse.
Fighting in Oaxaca left Bautista, 51, with punctured lungs from gunshots that cost his parents their lives and sent him north to Baja California, where fellow Triqui founded the settlement of ‘New Copala’ in 1989.
But sustaining a new homeland has proven difficult, particularly among the new generation, as the Triqui struggle to keep their culture alive and battle poverty daily.
Many Triqui simply want to go home. But first they want the government to restore stability to their ancient homeland where vigilante groups run drugs cartels.
“I would love to see my homeland the way it was when I was young, but while the situation continues there it’s better to accept it and stay alive,” said Bautista, standing outside the New Copala communal kitchen, where Triqui families were meeting to discuss how to defend their community.