The typical relaxation that usually comes from us, flooded the atmosphere at the time. It was 2018 and the news came that a caravan of Central American pilgrims would pass through Guatemala and that it would overflow the shelter capacities in the country. One heard of authentic human columns, for the first time massive, for the first time public and patent, defying the darkness. There were already thousands; and thousands more joined. A panic flooded the country, as we watched children, young people, parents and even grandparents approach our stunted populations. During the day, they walked in the sun. At night they slept wherever they went. Officials and politicians, with millions of the treasury under their arms, avoided the slightest expected leadership and efficiency. Society sympathized. But he did not know with whom to channel the solidarity he felt at the time. I think that was when that same society got to know better the name of Mauro Verzeletti and the indispensable work carried out by the Catholic congregation of Scalabrinians, in favor of the protection of the migrant person.
Certainly, the country got to know Father Mauro better in 2018 with the boom in caravans. But his work came from a long time ago with the most significant caravans: the silent ones; the constants; those of every day and every night, of every month and year, from three decades ago. At a global level, Scalabrinians have the mission of serving the migrant with a presence in places where this phenomenon is transcendent. But fate was benevolent in sending him to this country. The Casa del Migrante was installed, which is – by far – the most important center for the care of the passing population and the returnees that exists in the city and the country. For long periods, the only place accessible to people, conceived in his own words “not only as a shelter, but as spaces where comprehensive care is offered to migrants.” There, and only there, is there a bed; meal; Psychological attention; of health; Logistics; and an endless number of integral and indispensable tools for those who are going through the maximum moment of vulnerability and threat in their lives, and against their lives.
That which I describe is – I believe – the most visible face of the work of the Scalabrinians. The one of attention. But in Father Mauro I see something much more than just a server focused on sheltering people. Much further, he is a true voice figure for a message that – openly – denounces an economic and political injustice, which ultimately drives out masses of people, causing the tragedies that often come with irregular migration. The man is clear about his thoughts. He speaks of this era as one of “savage and neoliberal capitalism.” Opposed to the conservative current of the moment, he identifies migration not only as a problem of job creation. Further, according to his words, “impunity, poverty and corruption, is what forces them to migrate. Verzeletti’s position can be seen as identified with a definite ideological orientation, which he himself does not deny. But anyone who wants to refute him, must recognize that his interlocutor has days, nights, months, years and decades of knowing, by work and not just by word, the migratory drama that today defines the international position of this disorganized country.
This week, Mauro Verzeletti surprised us by announcing that he is leaving Guatemala, after 23 years of service. It gives hope to know that he will study political science in his native country, to raise his voice to another level. But from now on he is missed and appreciated. It was indispensable. His posture was strong. His vision, energetic. A man whose sincerity and courage was attacked and now leaves a large void. Man deserves the highest ceremonial honors. The Order of the Quetzal is made for someone like him, and it is up to the public to advocate that his departure and his message do not go unnoticed.