|Arriaga, Chiapas, Mexico
I arrived in Arriaga last night. I dropped off my bag at a hotel and went directly to the Parque Central for some freshly squeezed fruit juice when I ran her than...Nope, not Shakira, but rather my good friends, Gang banger Luis and Sr. Sensitive Franklin. (Don´t u think Franklin is an odd name for a Hondu fellow?) It almost seemed as if they were waiting for me. God had put them en mi camino (my way). I invited them to join me for a juice. We were excited to see each other and spoke for hours about our respective lives while we trew rocks at objects on the train tracks. They still seem lost, however, as far as the camino (route). *** Notice I´ve used the Spanish word ´camino´ twice in this paragragh with slightly different English translations. Hope u enjoyed that***Back to my research. Once again Frankie and Luis seemed like lost chicks looking for their mommy. They weren´t sure what to do, where to go and how to get where they didn´t know they wanted to go. Against my better judgment I again had to guide...Maybe there is a new career out there for me as a Smuggler!
It is hot here, very hot. I have been sweating like a zebra for days now. Thank god I picked up the new to work into my rotation so as to minimize my mixed disgustingness of grim and stains from all the shit I spill on myself. My Yankee hat is foul. It has never been washed. It smells like a dead iguana was opened up and its guts spread all over my hat. The most important thing, however, I´ve been staying hydrated with fresh fruit juices and lots of King Cones...the fake ice cream that comes pre-wrapped in the shape of a cone and is nearly impossible to open w/o losing part of it.
Got to be honest, research is progressing very slowly this summer. Nevertheless, I remain resolute in my determination to achieve my goals. I´ve been working the streets hard, putting in 12+ hour days while engagaing the local folk in spirited dialogue.
Arriaga is a small town located in the northern part of Mexico´s southernmost state of Chiapas. The only noteworthy detail about this town is that it is the departure point of La Bestia. I apologize for repeating myself to those of you that already know this and my thousands of loyal twitter followers, but I will anyway for the newbies.
La Bestia, or, The Beast, in American is a Mexican cargo train that Hondu (Central American Migrants) uses as a mode of transportation north...on their way to the US border. It is not a passenger train; there are no seats. You must jump or climb on, while sometimes in motion, and secure yourself in a ¨safe¨ spot either on top of a Hopper Car, on the platform of the car or hanging onto a ladder. The train moves slowly at times, yet can reach fairly rapido speeds.
La Bestia is free. You don´t pay to ride it but it is considered illegal, although it is difficult to enforce. It is extremely dangerous. Hondu rides the train long distances without much, if any, food and water and generally on almost no rest. Hondu must remain alert at all times for danger. While on the train many things can go wrong, and, very often, they do. Hondu can: 1) fall off and get split in half 2) get robbed by the Police 3) get assaulted by Gangs 4)get kidnapped by the Zetas (a drug cartel) 5) get raped by bad people 6) get thrown off the train by tree branches 7) get attacked by bees, etc. On top of these things, Hondu is exposed to every type of weather elements, which obviously inconvenient can be outright dangerous. La Bestia is also nicknamed the Death Train.
The train doesn´t have a set schedule. When there is cargo, it leaves. Generally speaking it departs from Arriaga every 2 days or so...at any hour of the day.
At this point, Hondu is waiting anxiously for the train to depart. Each hour that he has to wait is another hour of not eating or dehydration or possibly getting assaulted by gangs and drug cartels.
I have spent most of today interviewing Hondu at a Migrant Shelter. The Catholic Church has set up a network of shelters along the Migrant Route which provides Hondu a safe place to stay and food for 3 nights. The conditions are yucky but it is better than the alternative, which still many people do, which is sleep on the train tracks.
Throughout my conversations today, I met Angie a 19 year old pregnant Honduran girl (I prob dont need to mention that she´s a girl bc boys can´t get pregnant. It is sad to know that there are many women here...and many of them are traveling alone...and a some are pregnant. Angie was left behind by her ¨friends¨ further south. She is from La Entrada de Copan. Angie is very nervous about the trip north and traveling by train. I am nervous for her. The vast majority of woman traveling alone don´t make it, as I sadly learned last year from my experience with the 18 year old Honduran girl, Carolina. Girls/woman are preyed upon by the Drug Cartels...assaulted, raped, sold into prostitution or killed.
I pray to our lord, JesuCristo, that Angie makes it to her final destination. It will be hard.
I will follow the train and mis amigos Luis y Franklin to the next stop in Ixtepec, Oaxaca...