Agua Prieta, Mexico
He had taken the train.
His name has faded in my memory. I remember his name as Jesus, like so many of the others. But maybe it wasn’t.
He had taken the train. Like many of the others that people call “Mexican,” he was from Guatemala. Like the others, he had grown corn, until the bottom of the market fell out, until it cost more to grow than he could make selling.
Like the others, he needed money to live. Money to send home.
Like the others, he couldn’t afford the bus ticket north. So he took the train.
When coming from Guatemala, migrants hop the freight trains that go from Central America to the U.S. They ride the trains from Guatemala or El Salvador to Mexico. In Benjamin Hill, Mexico, the train line forks and forms a Y. The West fork goes to the United States.
In Benjamin Hill, where the train line forks, they jump.
He had jumped from the train he had ridden from Guatemala to the train bound for the United States. The timing had to be just right, he told us later at the shelter. You had to jump at just the right time, or you could fall to the tracks beneath the train.
He doesn’t tell the details, but the timing was not just right.
His leg was crushed, he tells us in the shelter. He leans his crutch against the table. “Thank God I’m alive,” he says.
He stayed at a church-run shelter for migrants in Mexico for the months after the accident. There was food, shelter, even some medical care as his leg healed.
“I’m well enough to cross now,” he says.
Only the desperate ones cross here, the shelter volunteers whisper to us later. The ones who have tried and failed, the ones who have no money to pay a coyote. Sometimes the ones who have made it to strawberry fields in Florida or construction sites in North Carolina and who are deported think that they can make it across by themselves this second time.
He has no money to pay a coyote. He didn’t have much in the first place and now, after six months and a crushed leg, he sure doesn’t have any.
Like the others, the desperate ones, he’ll take his chances.
He walks to the kitchen for seconds on rice and beans. The shelter volunteer, a smiling young woman from the church, spoons more food on his place.
“Thank you,” he says. “Thank you for being so good to me while I was sick.”
He takes slow steps to the table: left, right, left, right. He leans on his crutch as he walks slowly ahead.
This post is part of a series, Jesus the Migrant, about my experiences on the U.S.-Mexico border in 2007. I hope you’ll journey with me to the other side of the border.
Read the other posts in the series here: