From one of the corners of the bicentennial plaza, where Tijuana's cathedral is located, you can hear the prayers in whispers “Today I have to part to foreign lands to find work, but I ask that you guide my path and care for my family while I am away...”.
Softly but clearly, a 35 year old man prays standing outside the temple doors. Backpack at his legs, a New York Yankees baseball cap, and a part of washed out jeans indicate he's another immigrant waiting for a smuggler.
And it seems that the metropolitan cathedral has become a rallying point for immigrants seeking to cross over to the United States, waiting for the “human Smugglers” that serve as guides in the mountains, for their considerable fee of course.
Enrique, an immigrant originally from Jalisco, was deported after living over 15 years in Oakland, California, his hands are sweating and a small book with the image of a young blue eyed man in a priests robe slips from his grasp.
It's Saint Toribio Romo, the new saint immigrants have been worshiping of late and for around 6 months has been producing a lot of profit for street salesmen, “Santeros” and shop owners who sell religious wares on second street in downtown Tijuana.
Wallet stamps, prayer books, scented candles with the “handsome” saint, and small statues bathed in gold paint, have been selling more than even the saint “San Judas Tadeo”, the saint Mexican women place upside down in hopes it will bring them love. Even “Juan Soldado” who would be the immigrants saint.
Doña Celia, has been selling religious wares since 1990 outside Tijuana's Cathedral, says that without a doubt the saints that are sold the most are Saint Judas and Saint Toribio. Celia says that weekly she sells over 30 stamps of the immigrants saint.
“A lot of immigrants come by, to make a prayer and ask that everything go well in their journey. Their family members also buy it. They ask for Saint Toribios stamp to pray and ask for safe passage into the United States”.
Don Félix, another salesman with over 20 years of experience explains that Saint Toribio Romo's popularity is rising, and according to the stories told by the immigrants he appears in the mountains or the desert, and light their path and guides their way to get to the United States.
“One day a boy arrived and told us that when he was in the mountains he found a young man, dressed in priests robes. The boy was lost, but the man in the robes told him to walk several kilometers more and he showed him the way”.
The story of this immigrant concludes many years later in is home in Jalisco, when he returned from the United States he found an altar, there he realized that the man in the picture was the same one that helped him in the desert.
“I know him! He helped me many years ago!”, it's Saint Toribio some of the devouts answerd him. The story tells that Saint Toribio died in 1928 in defense of the catholic church; he was a priest originally from the town of Jalostotitlán, Jalisco. In the year 2000 he was sainted by pope John Paul the second after it was accepted that Saint Toribio performed miracles.
Enrique, who was deported from Oakland, waits desperately in Tijuana for a smuggler that will cross him over to the United States by the mountains of the city of Tecate. He confesses that he is asking Saint Toribio to help him once again, just as he did 15 years ago when he left Guadalajara to go to the United States.
He tells us that his mother put a stamp of Saint Toribio in his wallet and said “she told me: 'He will help you and he will watch over you when you head north'. So I place my life in Saint Toribios hands again, forever and ever...”
The prices for Saint Toribio merchandise varies, stamps can be bought for 8 pesos, prayer books for 15, statues for 50, and the framed pictures with Christmas lights are 150 pesos due to their sofistication.
In the streets near Tijuana's Cathedral the prices for immigrants are a little more accessible, and despite the low economic resources they have, they consider traveling with Toribio. “The smugglers Saint” a good Investment.