Pascual’s grandmother recounted AlJazeera that the 13-year-old had planned to reunite with his father, who had been in the United States for a year, and continue his education there.
“Our family is saddened by the loss,” Manuela Coj, the boy’s grandmother, told Al Jazeera. “His dream was to finish his studies there in the United States. He wanted to leave a better future for his family members.
Both boys were from the indigenous Mayan K’iche community of Tzucubal in the western highlands of Guatemala.
Telemundo and CNN in Spanish reported that Pascual and Juan had hoped to work in the United States and earn enough money to lift their family out of poverty.
“He had so many dreams. He dreamed of a better future, to build a house, to support his siblings as well as his father,” María Tutul, Juan’s cousin, told CNN en Español.
Pictures taken shortly after confirmation of the cousin’s death shows an inconsolable family, sobbing with their faces against the wall.
Manuel Tulul, Juan’s father, told Telemundo that before his son left for the United States, he told him he was going to fight for a better life there.
“He left because of poverty,” Tulul told Telemundo.
Almost half the population of Guatemala lives in poverty, according to the World Bank Group. This rate climbs to nearly 80% for Indigenous people like Pascual and Juan, who make up more than 40% of the country’s population.
Climate change has continued to fuel food insecurity in Guatemala, leading to increased migration to the United States. In Guatemala, 1 child out of 2 suffers from chronic malnutrition, according at UNICEF.
Poverty and the Guatemalan government’s inability to provide social services to support those in need drove many people to immigrate to the United States and send money home to their families. In 2021, Guatemala received $15 billion in remittances, according at the Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank based in Washington, DC.
Misael Olivares Monterde, 16, was among the youngest of those who died in the tractor-trailer. The Mexican teenager had traveled to the border with his cousins - Yovani Valencia Olivares, 16, and Jair Valencia Olivares, 20. All three were among the dead.
The cousins wanted to work, save money and return to Mexico in four years to open their own clothing and shoe store, the Associated Press. reported. Their parents had taken out loans, using their homes as collateral, to pay for the $10,000 smuggling fee for each cousin.
The day before he left, Misael asked his mother to wake him when it was time for him to leave for the United States.
“For a while I thought about not doing it so he wouldn’t go,” Hermelinda Monterde Jiménez told AP. “But it was his decision and his own dream.”