Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Weekender – The Beast of the Rails

“The Weekender” is our new feature where every weekend we hope to highlight a short film, movie or documentary pertaining to the Americas.  
A group of at least fifteen disabled Hondurans known by the Spanish-language acronym of AMIREDIS have planned to trek through Mexico with the goal of highlighting abuses committed against Central American migrants.  The men may use different assistive devices but all of them became disabled while attempting to trek northbound on the dangerous rail journey on a lengthy freight train known simply as La Bestia (“The Beast”).

My accident was in 2005,” said protester José Luis Hernández to the Animal Politico website.  “I had been riding twenty days on the train and hiding from police and gangs trying to assault us.  My exhaustion beat me and I fainted.  I fell below the train’s wheels and one of my arms, a leg and three fingers on the other arm were cut off,” he mentioned.

The marchers petitioned last month for visas from Mexican migratory authorities in order to travel to Mexico City and attempt to talk with President Enrique Peña Nieto. Furthermore, the AMIREDIS group was scheduled to speak to legislators on Wednesday in Mexico City and voice their concerns regarding how Central American migrants are often the targets of death, extortion and kidnapping from drug gangs and corrupt police.

However, they have yet to receive permission to legally travel through Mexico and have seen their funds dwindle down.  As a result, members of the group are strongly considering making their journey on the train that caused their respective serious injuries.

“My leg became amputated after riding on La Bestia and it’s a memory I would prefer not to remember,” said AMIREDIS spokesman Normal Saúl Varela.  “But it may be necessary to ride on it again in order to obtain our goal, which is to speak to President Peña Nieto and that he sees with his own eyes the affects of riding that train,” he added.

A 2010 Amnesty International report found that “migrants in Mexico are facing a major human rights crisis leaving them with virtually no access to justice, fearing reprisals and deportation if they complain of abuses.”  The report cited an incident that reportedly occurred on the La Bestia line when a female migrant was forced off the train by Mexican Federal Police, had her belongings stolen and was forced to walk on foot where she was subsequently raped by an armed gang.

Several documentaries have been made focusing on the perilous trip on La Bestia such as Which Way Home, a film that aired on HBO in 2009.  Below the page break is a documentary in Spanish regarding the journey on La Bestia.  We begin nearly nine minutes into the film with the harrowing images of teenagers in a Mexican hospital recovering from amputations caused by the beastly rail trip:        

The protest by the disabled Hondurans comes amid increasing pressure by U.S. immigration advocates urging President Barack Obama to put a freeze on deportations.

Last Tuesday, a delegation of catholic leaders held a mass along the U.S.-Mexico border urging Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year. 

Video Source – YouTube user Carlosbarrera32 

Online Sources –; Animal Político; The Latin Americanist; Latin Post; Catholic News Service; Amnesty International

No comments: