Since then, Banda has been opening up his church to migrants from all across the hemispheres—first the Haitians, then families and children from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. They slept on the floors of the church sanctuary over blankets and cardboard, then as more migrants moved in from Central America, nonprofits donated tents and sleeping bags. At one point, 500 migrants squeezed into the church building.
Local residents have welcomed the Haitians, calling them ‘peace-loving’ and ‘law-abiding’ folks
Most eventually left to seek asylum in the United States—but as the legal pathways closed for Haitians, thousands of Haitians decided to settle in Mexico, and in 2017, Banda donated a piece of land by his church to the Haitians to build their own community. They call that area “Little Haiti,” and some Haitians now call themselves “Haitijuanenses,” a quiet indication that they’re accepting an identity of belonging in a city they had not planned to call home.
Today they work as welders, assembly line workers, hotel cleaners, cooks, mechanics, construction workers, fruit peddlers, and car washers. They learned Spanish, opened restaurants and beauty parlors, enrolled in university programs, and even formed their own soccer leagues to play against local teams. Some earned enough to buy cars and move into their own houses and apartments. Dozens have married local women and given birth to Haitian-Mexican babies and earned permanent residency in Mexico.
These people came seeking the American Dream, but instead found the Mexican Dream—and the majority have adjusted well enough that locals are now hailing them as a “success story” of first-generation immigrants.