By Edgard Garrido
What really happens when a man, or a woman, or even a child, abandons their home motivated by the idea of a better life? How do they imagine it? What do they wish for, what are they missing?
There is violence, overcrowded neighborhoods and gigantic infrastructure on the outskirts of Mexico City but there are also hundreds of thousands of people who walk day and night; different people every day and every night for weeks and months next to the train tracks, trying to jump on a train car filled with merchandise as the train passes. Fear is engraved in their faces and makes their feet heavy. Solitude, hunger, the cold and above all a painful uncertainty, are carried with them. They left behind their homes in a land without miracles and few joys, like the last of the deserts.
In Huehuetoca, 67 km (41 miles) from Mexico City:
Edgard: (photographer) “Hi, what’s your name? Where are you from?”
Carlos: (migrant) “Hi, I’m from Honduras, and you?”
Edgard: “From Chile”
Carlos: “From Chile! How are you Alexis (a reference to Chilean soccer player Alexis Sanchez), have you been to Honduras?”
Edgard: “Yes, I lived in Honduras for several years”
Carlos: “And you’re not afraid of migrants?”
Edgard: “No, why should I?”
Carlos: “Because people say we are thieves and gang members. That we rape girls and that we only do damage.”
Edgard: “But not all of them. From what part of Honduras are you?”
Carlos: “From Tegus… (the capital Tegucigalpa)”
Edgard: “What neighborhood?”
Carlos: “Did you get to know Little Hell?”
Edgard: “Behind the Basilica, going down the staircase. Are you a member of a gang?”
Carlos: “You’re definitely not afraid of migrants! You wanna have a beer?”
Edgard: “How far are you traveling?”
Carlos: “Well, up north, to Uncle Sam (laughs). I’ve been there and they have deported me nine times, but here I go again. I know the tracks like no one else. Come on, let’s have a beer.”
I’d been asked to cover the possible dismantling of a provisional migrant shelter in Tultitlan, on the outskirts of Mexico City. It was about to be shut down due to the innumerable complaints from neighbors. The official shelter had been shut down for just the same reason, complaints by the neighbors about thieves, drunks, robbers, rapists and drug dealers they see in every migrant.
The provisional shelter was a giant tent set up underneath a bridge. Some 100 migrants were there when I arrived. Employees from the Mexican migration office were offering migrants the possibility to return legally to their home countries if they wished to do so. There seemed to be a lot of people wanting to go home. They were tired; they had been victims of kidnappers, extortionists and sometimes even of their own travel companions. Some were injured while trying to board the train in motion, others when they fell off.