Find life experiences and swallow them whole. Exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Risking it All

The site below is a documentary about Jaime and his partners traveling from El Salvador to the Texas border, USA.


Notes from the documentary:

1,000,000 flee from their home country in Latin America and Mexico to reach the "Impossible Dream".   They travel 2,500 miles through Mexico.  As mentioned in other posts and documentaries, the most popular ride for at least 1,000 illegal immigrants at a time is atop the freight trains.

We will follow Jaime, from El Salvador, his girlfriend, Lupita and a few other group members. Jamie had immigrated to the US before with his family and lived in Las Angeles para 15 aƱos.  After joining a gain and getting in trouble with the law too many times, Jaime was deported back to his home country.  He is attempting the journey again for a second chance at a better life for him and Lupita. They embark on the dangerous route.

Police stop immigrants in open country side in order to catch the most people and where illegal immigrants have no where to run.  At the arrest location on the documentary - 300 illegal immigrants are arrested and deported back to home countries.

Only 40% of the attempting immigrants reach the US border. 

Jaime and his group take a huge risk in finding the "right" train.  There are no sign updates of where and which direction the trains are headed, so Jaime needs to take one important "guestimate" after another. If they get on the "wrong" train, there's a chance the group will be headed towards Guatemala.  It is very common for migrants to make the wrong decision. The second thing to watch out for is police at the stations - getting on the train has to be secretive. Jamie is tense because certain areas are known for gangs that rob the group or rape the women.  Jaime has 4 women with him.
This is one of those topics that I've never had to think about during my travels.  I have never had to hide or guess which direction the train is going.  I have been comfortable to ask people around me.  The most confusing transportation I've had to use was in Spain on my way to school.  The one metro stop had 4 different trains leaving in different directions, this was a little overwhelming at first - but then became routine.  

Jaime and his group move at night, 200 miles on foot.  They rest in hotels periodically.
This was a little scary to see.  The documentary showed a clip of all the migrants traveling at night.  The video mentions "ghosts" as an image of the illegal on the tracks.  The groups come together, the more the merrier.  It would be very frightening for me to wander around at night when everything is so unsure.  The irony is, this would be the safest time.  

At times, the group is able to climb in a box car, which can be a "safer" place to sleep and stay for a long distance.  Jaime has to jam a large wooden rod in the door so that it doesn't close - otherwise it would be very hard to breath.

Groups spend hours upon hours on riding the train.  Hazards they face include lack of food, freezing and hot conditions, finding shelter just to sleep, and avoiding the police, who can sometimes be bargained with to be let go - just give them money.
The trains are LOUD and deafening. Migrants aren't able to get any sleep while riding. 

The migrants journey: Tapachula - Arriaga - Ixtepec - Tierra Blanca - Cordoba - Orizaba - Puebla - Apizaco.

Lupita is exhausted.
This got me thinking - What does it mean to be "exhausted"?  As college students, we have occasionally have long nights of studying, have to work late, or are tired from a full day of classes.  But otherwise, if we are tired, it is our choice that we didn't plan ahead or get enough rest.  A mother is exhausted because her baby wakes up every couple of hours to be fed and then cares for her child the whole day.  Jaime is responsible for a whole group, ensuring safety, direction, finding food, sleep, watching for police, etc.  Jaime had taken this journey a couple times before.  I can't imagine being on your toes for days upon months - without a decent sleep.  

Another interesting phrase that came up was "Too many illegals is unsafe".  While migrating, Jaime wants to avoid large groups of migrants because it is too obvious for police.  They are referring to the danger of getting caught, not the danger of each other.  There is a balance of staying in groups at certain times and being separated in order to not get caught.  It is a game the whole way up and those who make it know how to play.

It different regions, such as Apizaco, it is safer to ride the busses instead of trains.  The group sits separate on the bus to not cause any suspicion.  Jaime and the group spend 4 days - 400 miles on busses.  We tend to get anxious after a few hours in a car.

I noticed Lupita has make up on the entire journey.  I've been reading that some women/men try hard during their journey to look presentable - it is less suspicious because immigrants would traditionally be dirty and tired looking.

Jaime, Lupita and one other person finally reach the Texas border - Matamoros, a border town. The other side of the Rio Grande is the USA - staring them in the face. They have spent 24 days traveling 2,500 miles.  Jaime has bought a cocodrilo inner tube to get across.  There doesn't appear to be any patrol on the other side. He pushes Lupita across and then his other friend.  They have made it safely.
The opposite side are lights. This is your final destination. What if looking across a body of water was hope, dreams, a better life.  I'm not sure if I'd be able to wade across a dark, smelly, animal filled, dangerous, large river - but if it was for a better life, I'd be willing to put myself out there.  The water looked SCARY! They are very brave.  It surprised me that this group only took 24 days.  After reading Enrique's Journey, I thought 2 to 3 months was more common, but maybe some of that time is learning how to play the game.  Enrique took many attempts to get across.  

I really enjoyed watching this documentary because it put pictures to what I've read in Enrique's Journey and some other articles.  It is a dangerous ride. Watching this documentary added new emotions and thoughts. 

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