Repose for Jismary

Today we lay to rest Jismary Alejandra Barboza González, who would have turned 4 years old next week. Her family started their trip north back in May. Little Jismary was born in Colombia and died in Illinois on August 10th.

Colombia is known as the Butterfly Kingdom. Colombia is only second in the world in butterfly species, after Peru. The beauty of the butterflies is legendary, making Colombia a tourist destination to those who are lucky enough to sneak a peek at the beauty of their wings. 200 species are endemic and are not found outside of Colombia.

Jismary and her family packed whatever they could carry and left the beauty of Colombia and the beauty of those butterflies and headed north to the safety of the United States to seek asylum. Like many who have taken this trip, the first stop would likely would have been Necocli, Colombia, where there is little food or water and no health system to speak of. Necocli is a major transit point to Panama. Once arriving in Panama, the family would have headed to the Darien Gap jungle.

The tremendously dangerous hike through the Darien Gap would take ten or more days. Along the route are smugglers and criminal gangs. These groups often extort and sexually assault migrants. UNICEF estimates that half of the children who crossed in 2022 were under five years old, and at least one thousand were unaccompanied or separated.

To get to the United States, González family would have to cross half a dozen more borders, a journey of roughly 2,500 miles from Central America.

Arriving in the Brownsville, United States the family presented itself to the authorities to begin the asylum process. While in Texas, the González family was given the opportunity to take a bus to Chicago. Though Chicago was a foreign sounding name to them, it promised to be much cooler then the 110+ degree temperature that Texas has been experiencing.

Traveling along the same migration path made famous by the monarch butterfly, the bus headed north. The arid landscape became more and more green as the bus past San Antonio and through Dallas. As the mile markers kept piling up and then starting over again as the bus left one state and entered another, little Jismary was not feeling well. She was given a drink to help, but still she did not feel well. In time Jismary settled down resting on her mother’s lap. The bus crossed into the Illinois. Jismary became despondent which alarmed her mother. The bus pulled over to the side of the road to check on her. The security personnel onboard called 911 and the ambulance came and took the little girl to the hospital. Three, soon to be four year old Jismary Alejandra Barboza González died.

More than likely, the González family would have arrived in our police district 22 in Morgan Park as many families have since the beginning of May. We would have seen her play in the garden with the other children.

Maybe not all butterflies were meant to leave their home, such as the native 200 species in Colombia. Perhaps, like Edward Lorenz said “When a butterfly flutters its wings in one part of the world, it can eventually cause a hurricane in another”. Maybe hurricane Jismary may wash away our xenophobia and open our hearts.

She deserved a future, but was denied. Hopefully her short life will result in something more than a hurricane. Something stronger, such as love for our fellow humans.

May Jismary’s Kind and Gentle Soul Rest in Peace