Parado (Stopped)

This Monday, rains from Hurricane Carlotta wiped out a railway bridge in Oaxaca. It was not headline news, but is critical for us and for the migrants. The bridge in Loma Bonita was where trains passed before arriving here in Tierra Blanca and then continue carrying their freight to central and northern Mexico. The railroad company says it could be up to a month before the bridge is repaired. And since trains are meant to carry freight, not migrants, if trains can’t cross the bridge there is no reason for them to go north from here.

The derailed train next to a now non-existent bridge in Loma Bonita, Oaxaca

The stop in trains does not just affect those going north. Yesterday, a migrant came to our shelter who had turned around on his journey north and was now rushing back from Mexico City to Honduras. His only daughter, a four-year-old, was gravely ill and he needed to get back home to be with her and support his wife and possibly make some money, as little as it may be, to pay for her to go to the doctor. In Mexico City, gangsters robbed him of the 600 pesos he was going to use for a bus ticket. He did not want to turn himself into migration because he did not want to waste time waiting to be deported. He needed to be back home. Quickly. But the trains are not running south either.

For migrants, the journey is a fight, an adventure, a search for a better life. It is empowering to be moving north and know that they are going toward the possibility of a better future for their family. So imagine the frustration when migrants pass by the shelter and we give them the news of just how long they will have to wait for the trains. This several-week stop in Tierra Blanca or Chiapas or Oaxaca prolongs migrants’ exposure to the dangers of being undocumented in Mexico. Some turn themselves into Mexican migration, preferring to restart from their home countries once the trains are running.

But the impressive reality is that migrants still arrive. A derailed train cannot completely stop the journey north. They hitchhike or beg for money to buy bus tickets. And this morning a group of 20 migrants arrived having walked for 3 days along the rails. They plan to continue walking until they can catch a train. Perhaps in Orizaba. Or Mexico City. It could be many more days or even weeks of walking.

What to me seems to be an insurmountable barrier and a complete stop in the journey north is just another obstacle that migrants face with a mix of desperation and extraordinary resilience.

This constant desire to fight and push on is something that has always impressed and humbled me when I work with migrants. How many times do I throw up my hands at the impossible and declare myself beaten? Even worse, how many times do I tell God what should for Him be impossible or a dead end or a stopped train? And yet the migrants walk saying, primeramente Dios, there will be a way.

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