Train surfing through Mexico, dreaming of a new life in the US

6 months ago 147

Migrant people, mostly from Venezuela, remain stranded after the goods train they were travelling on to Ciudad Juarez stopped in the desert

People, mostly from Venezuela, ride atop a cargo train which has stopped in the desert in Ahumada, Chihuahua, Mexico. [Herika Martinez/AFP]

Published On 5 Oct 2023

As soon as they arrived in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, a group of mostly Venezuelan refugees and migrants threw their belongings to the ground and slid off the top of a freight train, happy to be on solid ground.

The freight train, commonly known as La Bestia (the beast) had carried more than 1,000 “train surfers” on its roof on a 10-day journey through Mexico to the United States border.

It had not been an easy trip, in addition to having to spend days and nights balanced precariously on top of the moving train, the people had to avoid Mexican migration agencies that were trying to get them off the train, according to Daiverson Munoz, a 20-year-old from Venezuela.

“And we’re stuck in the middle of the desert. But it’s nothing, we’re here and we feel super happy because we’re about to realise our dream. It’s been hard but not impossible.

“The hardest part was seeing how many people were injured” during the journey, said Munoz, a law student in his native country.

Jeffri Gomez, a 24-year-old Venezuelan woman who was travelling with her husband and their one-year-old child, was relieved to have come to the end of the journey that had been filled with peril.

The train had started out about 1,800km (1,120 miles) to the south in the State of Mexico, and many of the train surfers had been injured along the way.

The final 370km (230 miles) of the trip took 17 hours due to the number of stops, Munoz said.

The risky trip has become virtually the only option for people hoping to reach the US border in pursuit of a safer, better life because it is nearly impossible to buy passenger tickets.

Mexico’s main rail operator cut its traffic by 30 percent in mid-September, as the government tightened security measures to prevent people from getting on the trains.

As soon as they arrived, the travellers came across an official from the Mexican National Institute of Migration and a barbed-wire wall from the Texas National Guard on the banks of the Rio Bravo, a natural border with the US.

Migrant people, mostly from Venezuela, remain stranded after the goods train they were travelling on to Ciudad Juarez

In the last 11 months, at least 1.8 million people have reached the southern US border, many of them seeking safety and a better life. [Herika Martinez/AFP]

Migrant people, mostly from Venezuela, remain stranded after the goods train

US President Joe Biden's administration is under pressure to reduce a recent swell of arrivals at the country’s southern border as local officials warn their resources may soon reach 'breaking point'. [Herika Martinez/AFP]

Migrant people, mostly from Venezuela, travel on the wagons of a goods train to Ciudad Juarez,

People balance precariously on top of La Bestia, a cargo train, to Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. [Herika Martinez/AFP]

Migrant people, mostly from Venezuela, remain stranded after the goods train they were travelling on to Ciudad Juarez

Train surfers are often injured or die in falls off the top of La Bestia, especially when they fall asleep after days of holding on. [Herika Martinez/AFP]

Migrant people head to the Rio Grande to cross it to seek asylum in the US

People walk to the Rio Grande river hoping to to cross it and seek asylum in the US. [Herika Martinez/AFP]

Migrant people cross the Rio Grande to seek asylum in the US,

People cross the Rio Grande. The US has set up 'safe mobility' centres in countries like Guatemala and Colombia in an attempt to deter asylum seekers from making the journey north, and channel them towards 'legal pathways' for arriving in the US. [Herika Martinez/AFP]

Migrants from Venezuela crawl through a hole in the razor wire to cross into Eagle Pass, Texas

People from Venezuela crawl through a hole in razor wire to cross into Eagle Pass, Texas. [Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP]

A migrant family from Venezuela reacts after breaking through a razor wire barricade into the United States,

A man from Venezuela kneels in relief after breaking through the razor wire barricade into the US. [Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP]

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