Guadalajara, Mexico – A new FM4 migrant shelter in Guadalajara is welcoming weary migrants who come through a the hazardous journey from Central America and southern Mexico to the US.
Some of the reasons include economic desperation, getting displaced by the region’s rampant, gang-related violence. Majority of migrants have spent weeks clinging on to La Bestia, the freight train that runs to the US border.
Here not only they have a chance to rest, wash and eat, but also the volunteers from non-governmental organisation FM4 Paso Libre offer them clean clothes, medical attention, and legal and psychological counselling.
“This is the best shelter we’ve been through. They have my respect,” says Alvaro, a Honduran migrant who is particularly excited by the prospect of a shower and a change of footwear. “I haven’t taken my shoes off in two weeks and my feet smell awful.”
Alvaro, 26, and his cousin Emilio, 23 (names changed on request) left home to seek work in the US.
Having lost what little money and possessions they had while fleeing immigration agents, the pair must now also dodge the ruthless gang members who demand $100 from every migrant boarding the train. Upon reaching the border, they intend to work in Mexicali, the capital of the Mexican state of Baja California, until they can afford a human trafficker, or coyote as they are known, to smuggle them across.
“We’ve been begging for food. Sometimes old women come to the train tracks and throw bags of food for us to catch as we go past,” Alvaro explains. “We spend each night clinging on to the train so we can’t sleep until we reach our destination. We get off in each city and try to sleep on the street for a few hours and then we get on board the next train.”