Category Archives: Luis Eduardo Barrueto

State of Queer: being gay in Latin America

unnamed

IGUALES: an organisation promoting a wider inclusion of minorities into the society

Many countries in Latin America have been quick to adopt legislation towards the greater inclusion of LGBT individuals in society, but the struggle is far from over. México, Chile and Guatemala illustrate some of the differences, and the challenges looking forward. For a bigger picture, have a look at this map.

Edgar Sosa Meyemberg was an openly gay man and an active member of Ave de México, an organization that promotes awareness of HIV – a problem that is even greater among the homosexual community in México. He was last seen 24 February 2014, only to be found dead a month later. Ave de México, where Sosa served as director of development, demanded a prompt investigation of the case, but it ran into institutional and societal indifference. Though the authorities are not exclusively negligent in cases that involve members of the LGBT community, impunity being the norm for most Latin American countries, but they are quick to dismiss crimes like these on the grounds that they are usually crimes of passion. Both the attorney of the Texcoco and Nezahualcoyotl municipalities declared the crime to be so, after a photograph of Edgar with a rainbow flag surfaced in the investigation.

This sort of stereotype, says Carlos García de León, a fellow activist and friend of Sosa, is not rare in Mexican society. “Cases like these bring to light the sheer ignorance of the reality and dynamics of homosexual individuals by the authorities, as it is guided by stereotypes and indifference”, he claims. He also cites the death of another Ave de Mexico team member that was never investigated, Francisco Estrada Valle, who died in 1992, and the more recent killing of a 24 year old gay activist, Christian Iván Sánchez, in July 2011. Sánchez was involved with the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), who is friendlier among Mexican political parties when it comes to LGBT issues. General violence and hate crimes, based on the victims’ sexual orientation, is a grave issue in Latin America. Between 1995 and 2005, around 400 victims lost their lives to violence due to their sexual orientation in México, whereas 312 were killed in Brazil during 2013. There is hope, however, as a wave of legislative changes have mobilised the region towards greater acceptance of LGBT individuals as part of society and will continue to do so in the following years.

A silver lining

A crime, in fact, can be a trigger for change, as the case of Daniel Zamudio in Chile illustrates. Zamudio was a 24 year old man who was attacked and tortured in 2012 when his attackers learned about his homosexuality. He was severely injured and died three weeks later, but the media attention and the prompt response by local activist organisations sped up public discussion and legislation against discrimination. Then President Sebastián Piñera urged the Chilean parliament to speed up the adoption of a law against discrimination, which banned discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, appearance and disability. Also under Piñera, a project to regulate civil unions for non-married couples, heterosexual and same-sex alike, was introduced for discussion partly through the pressure of civil society and activist organizations. It is now known as the AVP, as the Spanish acronym for life partnership accord. Political momentum was not enough, as the discussion of the project has been delayed for about 4 years and is only now in the final stages of approval.

Luis Larraín, knows that the project is only a step in the direction of greater acceptance for the rights of LGBT individuals, which is the long-term goal of the organisation he presides over; Fundación Iguales. In fact, the AVP has been disputed both by hard-line activists, who don’t want civil unions to overcrowd the diversity agenda thereby pushing other topics off the table, as by conservatives, who perceive it as a threat to the institution of family. But Larraín and his co-founder, writer Pablo Simonetti, and the team at Iguales all agree on the necessity for gradual change. Civil unions are just one more milestone in a longer path: “Though the discussion has amplified from the AVP to equal marriage, the legal project has been pending approval for 4 years, and is coming close to finally being sanctioned. Introducing a new project right now would take at least a few months to get approval”, stated Larraín. “The time that passes translates into lives of people whose relationships and rights are not duly recognised”, he clarifies.

In fact, the delay has been put to good use, as public debates have engaged Chilean citizens in an honest discussion about the inclusion of all citizens to democratic processes – a wave that also encompasses changes in education and tax reform, as well as better treatment of women, migrants and indigenous peoples. “Next steps include the gender identity law, which would allow trans individuals to adjust their identity documents, which we hope will be approved next year. We’re also proposing adoption by same-sex couples, though not yet at the legislative level, and are socialising a proposal for equal marriage. Hopefully, it will be granted its proper importance and will be voted as part of [current President Michelle] Bachelet’s term”, Larraín explains.

The main success for the cause of LGBT peoples in Latin America, however, has come from sharing a message that appeals even to non-LGBT peoples. Andrés Zúñiga, programmes manager at Iguales, sums it up: “Besides being gay, you’re also a student, a brother, a son, a poor or rich, right-wing or left-wing person. People are recognising that increasingly”. Both also noticed that the issue is closely related to the prevalence of homosexuality having a more prominent spot on the public agenda, but other gender identities have started to gain track in recent years. “It’s more than just about homosexuality; it’s about diversity”, adds Zúñiga, who is also a psychology student.

 An Unequal Transition

Chile has had a steady, though slow, progress toward greater inclusion. So has Argentina, the first country in the region where gay marriage was legal since 2010, Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico. The middle to high-level income in those countries may be a one reason why social movements towards greater inclusion have been successful. In fact, inequality is a problem even domestically, as Zúñiga points out that “Lower-income constituencies are more at risk than their middle and high income counterparts. The underlying reason is their lack of access to education, and the corresponding influence conservative or religious leaders may have with them”.

But as Javier Corrales, a political science professor at Amherst University points out, social movements are also strong in Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica and Peru, and their struggle to institutionalise change cannot be explained with recourse to education and income alone. “What seems to make a difference is … whether they forge strong ties with national-level political parties”, he writes  in the New York Times.

Worryingly, there are a few countries where the voices for LGBT activism are not nearly as organised. Such is the case in Guatemala. As the host country for the 43rd General Assembly for the Association of American States (OAS), held in early June 2013, the president Otto Pérez Molina was forced to take a stance on abortion and gay marriage, topics that were intensely discussed as part of the summit’s agenda. He promptly and almost candidly affirmed that “Guatemala is a conservative country, and is therefore against abortion and marriage between homosexuals”. A few dozen people had been protesting outside the meeting, calling for the defense of “life, family and marriage”. They later sent him a letter thanking him for his “resistance to pressures”, signed by 150 people. Jorge Lopez Sologaistoa, president of OASIS Guatemala, presented a public denunciation against the President and other government officials at the Office of the Human Rights Procurator. “That type of comments incite discrimination, and violates the universal human rights. You cannot recognise them in one place and not in other”, López explained , but the demand went mostly under the radar.

Sadly, people in most countries of Latin America still face enormous social pressure to conform to expectations about masculinity and femininity that are based in culture or religion, some of them live in countries without the institutions that might help provide a better council, or support. Then, most gay, lesbian, transsexual, bisexual, queer and bisexual individuals are bound to negotiate their rights at a great disadvantage, even if it doesn’t translate into actual violence. Luckily, a high level of engagement and the work of courageous individuals point to higher grounds.

By Luis Eduardo Barrueto

Picture: Paola Ossandón

Comedy as an instrument of dissent

4.Mana-Neyestani-5

ITALIAN WRITER Umberto Eco deployed an ingenious plot device when he wrote his most famous novel, In the Name of the Rose. Several deaths become connected to the contents of Aristotle’s book on comedy, of which no real copy survives but which became the centre of controversy in the medieval context of the novel.

It became a source of criticism to the dogmas of different theologies and a topic of heated discussion, which in a way sets some people of influence in danger. To protect themselves, they seek to censor the proverbial book and its defenders. Without revealing the plot of the novel any further, it suffices to say that humour is as subversive now as this work of fiction underscores. Here are some real life examples.

The Danish cartoons of Muhammad
In 2005, the Danish newspaper published a series of comic strips about the prophet of Islam, Muhammad. Regardless of their content, which some critics have described as stereotypical and out of context, the reaction proves that a cultural representation like a cartoon is very powerful. The reaction was diverse and wide reaching. It started in the small acts of people who refused to sell and buy the newspaper on that day but also including protests locally and internationally, and lots of public discussion about the open criticism of Islam (as well as of the comics themselves).

1.Jyllands-Posten

 

The power of imagination: from prison to the world

Mana Neyestani is an Iranian artist who also pinpoints the political inclinations of the comic as a medium of communication. He has been in prison and is now an exile, where he started broadening his original topic –the Azeri minority in Iran – toward a broader commentary on oppression. This is some of his work.

2.Mana-Neyestani-1

This cartoon is about the effects of other countries’ sanctions about the Iranian nuclear program.

 

3.Mana-Neyestani-3

About the gay couples situation in the author’s country’s social scale.

 

4.Mana-Neyestani-5

Quite eloquently, the author titled this strip: “Come out, the world is beautiful”.

 

Humour also softens the criticism that, necessary as it is, it can seem to be below the belt. In any case, the repercussions of drawing a comic go beyond a simple laugh or filling a space in the paper. They propose a vision that more often than not needs to be confronted with prevailing ideas in a society. They eventually clash, as illustrated above, but they don’t need to be reduced to countries that we particularly know for being authoritarian. We found more good examples of artists using pencil and pen (or stencil and tablet) to send critical messages. Here two Americans samples of humour as instrument of dissent.

5.Lalo-Alcaraz

By Lalo Alcaraz, Hispanic American comic artist.

 

6.Lloyd-Dangle

Lloyd Dangle’s creation, politically very engaged.

 

This article was originally published in Spanish on the website Wondrus. 

 

Written and translated by Luis Eduardo Barrueto
, a Guatemalan journalist and founder of Wondrus, an Internet depository for cultural and scientific curiosities and fun facts for Spanish speakers.

Photo credits:
(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jyllands-Posten-pg3-article-in-Sept-30-2005-edition-of-KulturWeekend-entitled-Muhammeds-ansigt.png#mediaviewer/File:Jyllands-Posten-pg3-article-in-Sept-30-2005-edition-of-KulturWeekend-entitled-Muhammeds-ansigt.png
(2,3,4) http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2014/07/18-brilliant-cartoons-will-make-think-oppression-like-never/
(5,6) Attitude: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists
http://www.amazon.com/Attitude-The-Subversive-Political-Cartoonists/dp/B00DPOPDYQ

The inner journey of travelling by metro – in pictures

Stan Raucher

“Moreno likes the word ‘aqualung’. On a given day, he heard it fluttering in the warm air inside the metro and saved it somewhere near its stomach. He doesn’t know what it means, and imagines that if he searched for it in an encyclopaedia, he would find the image of a fantastic animal, maybe a dragon-fly look-alike – because a word like that surely has wings. As a reflex, when Moreno hears the whistling sound of the closing doors, the aqualung flutters in the opening of his stomach and escapes gliding through the train car, in case any other passenger captures it in its flight”.

 

Moreno found himself entertained by a grammatical wandering in what could have been one in a sea of countless commutes. It doesn’t need to be factually correct, as there are no ‘aqualungs’ with wings he could possibly find in the encyclopaedia. But this story from Laura Soto goes to prove another point. Just as Moreno, I have had different commuting enticements of my own. I reckon it was a night-time comedian who showed me that it doesn’t require a PhD in linguistics to manipulate language – especially idioms – into jokes that lighten up the humour of the rest of the bus inhabitants, traffic notwithstanding. In a different occasion, a musician that carries his amplifier and guitar through the different bus routes of a city covered the most iconic rock songs only to draw attention to the third and final act, one of his own compositions. I join in the crowd’s support and give him some change.

In a manner, commuting is a way of encountering proximity. I’ve encountered politicians (some maintain a certain low-profile in Latin America), businessmen, colleagues and friends. One time, I shared the same train car with a person I secretly have a celebrity-crush on. We rode for 8 stops on the metro line, but I couldn’t make any contact. It was one of many occasions where the taboo of showing our vulnerability proved to have a high cost.

Commuters often follow the same routes. They go to the office everyday. They visit friends or family on the weekends. They go to school or meet a friend for a meal or drink. But in each of those trips there is a kind of imaginary luggage that is almost never the same. One day, it is the fixation on a word. Another time, a job-to-be-done haunts our thoughts and cripples our social interactions. Maybe a book takes the reader outside of the constricted spaces of public transportation into another, fictional universe or a song brings the person back into distant memories. By all means, going from our current locations to a specific destination is a trip that does not only consist of the steps required for transportation, but also the ideas, visions and common practices that are within the commuter.

Along these lines, Stan Raucher is a photographer that decided to capture the social awkwardness of riding in public transportation systems across the planet: Naples, Delhi, Mexico City, NYC, Paris and many more. Raucher clearly makes an invitation while we follow him in what could change the way we think about the experience of travelling within a city. This is not only an encounter with coincidences, but also, a closer look to shared humanity, in constrained spaces. Protect your wallets, watch the gap and keep away from the automated doors. Here is some of his work:

Stan Raucher 1

 

Metro line 7 near Les Halles, Paris.

Stan Raucher 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Metro 1 Deak Ferenc Ter Station, Budapest.

Stan Raucher 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Metro U3 Stephensplatz Station, Vienna.

Stan Raucher 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atlantic Avenue MTA Station, Brooklyn.

 

This article is a compilation of two different articles originally published in Spanish on the website Wondrus. 

Written and translated by Luis Eduardo Barrueto
, a Guatemalan journalist and founder of Wondrus, an Internet depository for cultural and scientific curiosities and fun facts for Spanish speakers.

The excerpt at the beginning is a free translation from the Spanish of a story by Laura Soto, winner of the Santiago en 100 Días short story contest.

Photo Credit: Staunraucher.com 

 

 

Science is blurring the lines between life and death


SCIENCE HAS CONTRIBUTED greatly to our understanding of life and death, but the technologies it has enabled have also urged us to revise the boundaries we set between them. This has happened more than once, as Steven Kotler, journalist and director of the Flow Genome Project, points out when he writes that “Death has always been a sort of moving target”. This is all the more true given recent developments.

The definition of death offered in the first edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica in 1768 was the following: ““the separation of soul and body; in which sense it stands opposed to life, which consists in the union thereof”. This very ethereal definition was as precise as the times allowed, but it proved to be quite vague. Medically, life was originally defined as the ceasing of the vital breath by which life itself was understood. But some key questions remained unanswered: When did the vital breath abandon the human body? How do we know for sure?

Anatomy and biology allowed us to understand the circulatory system. With William Harvey’s groundbreaking work regarding the functioning of the heart, life was then redefined as a lack of pulse. Still now, paramedics on the field take a person’s pulse to see if life is still present in, say, the victim of an accident or someone that has been injured.

But neuroscience caught up and proved that though a body may still be “operational”, there is a possibility for cerebral death to occur. This gained immense legal importance, as brain-damaged but otherwise healthy individuals were in a “sweet spot”, optimal for organ donation. This specific problem gathered a committee in Harvard University in 1968 that set to define “irreversible coma” – the main condition to establish the end of a person’s life. They chose the criterion of cessation of brain function, and this soon became the accepted standard to demarcate the end of a person’s life. Though this has still been defined unequally in different jurisdictions, it held for a few decades and only recently, did it begin to receive external pressure for revision.

In 2002, researchers in the hospital of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor announced that they had found a way to remove all of the blood of an animal – a pig – and replace it with a cold saline solution, effectively inducing hypothermia and slowing down brain activity. In other words, they effectively placed the pig in animated suspension. Most recently, a team of surgeons in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, used the same technique in patients which suffered a cardiac arrest after a traumatic episode, such as taking a bullet shot, and that we’re unresponsive to more traditional procedures. The researchers reduced the patients’ temperature to 10 Celsius, gaining a two-hour window to repair the trauma.

This is revolutionary. It’s the first human case where, even if for two hours, the dreams of legions of technologists and Sci-Fi writers alike become feasible.  Indeed, it is a feat that will push societies to redefine death – but by now we should have gotten used to it.

This article was originally published in Spanish, on culture and technology site Wondrus. 

Written and translated by Luis Eduardo Barrueto. Luis is a geek with a fascination for stories about art, science and the bridges between them. He founded Wondrus based on the quixotic belief that journalism can provide a space for those meaningful connections. 

Photo Credit: twm1340

 

Victims of Abstract Ideals: Protests across the Globe

From protests to civil war, the international stage has seen a sandstorm of political unrest. Luis Barrueto looks at these conflicts across the globe, with focus on the rising tensions in Ukraine and Venezuela in a Special Report for Pandeia.

In Ukraine, clashes between protesters and policy have turned deadly, amassing a death toll of over 100 people after a short-lived truce. In Venezuela, protesters have been on the streets for over a week now in demonstrations against their government that are rapidly becoming violent, with the death toll at 8 people so far amidst increasing tension with the government. While each of these conflicts may seem unique at first glance, all of the clashes began as a struggle by populations against their governments’ abuses and have intensified by state tyranny. Although admittedly with different levels of clearness, underlying each struggle is a shared conviction that their citizens should live their lives in peace and tolerance. Yet, their governments continue to silence the cries for freedom.

Venezuela

“The average person faces the fear of being murdered, kidnapped or assaulted not only by criminals but by the state itself”

Gabriel Salas, from Estudiantes por la Libertad Venezuela, has summarized the situation, above. The current protests began as a peaceful demonstration against the high degree of insecurity, the growing scarcity of common consumer products, inflation and the abuse of power that has been common since Nicolás Maduro rose to power in April 2013. Last February 12, the protest that demanded the release of several students detained without their due process resulted in violence that counted 3 killed people, 23 hurt and hundreds of detainees.

12593095174_9dc2826c7e_bFollowing this, counts rose to 13 official deaths, dozens of tortured individuals and many more captured, including that of Leopoldo Lopez, the assumed leader of the opposition after his call to the 12F protest. After his surrender to the state forces, the Venezuelan people seem to have awoken from the stagnation that the opposition leaders Henrique Capriles and his Democratic Unity Roundtable had found themselves in. Declarations by Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, show this by asking for his formal support, long absent since the beginning of this crisis.

Constant repression has shown in two fronts:  the National Guard and so-called “collectives”, paramilitary organizations that have been used by the officialism to strike against the opposition in cases where policy involvement is too crude of a prospect. At the time of this writing, militarization seems even a bigger threat, though those who go off to the streets find the protest as the only alternative to the increasingly crude conditions of life in Venezuela.

Ukraine

In Ukraine, the movement endured a different sort of birth. President Viktor Yanukovich gave up on a trade agreement with the European Union, in exchange for a 15 billion bailout, three months ago. Maria Semykoz, Young Voices Advocate, explains that the motifs have changed since then:

“It started with the EU treaty. The regime used violence to crack down the peaceful protest. This shocked the society. From that point on,the protest was increasingly about holding those guilty in the first blood dropped on Maidan to accountability and ensuring police and state forces will not be able to beat up 11878993505_331302ebe6_binnocent citizens in the future. However, the regime didn’t get the message”.

Progressively, violence escalated towards its peak between February 17 and 19, rising the death toll to 26. “Citizens had little choice but to demand the president’s resignation – and with it, the dismantling the whole regime, wired to steal, lie, kill and torture. As we saw over the last 2 days, people are ready to stand behind this demand until death”, adds Semykoz.

After this escalade in violence, President Yanukovich declared a short lived truce that was broken within hours and added up to a 100 killings in total since the beginning of the protests. At the time of writing, the elite Berkut police unit seen as responsible for many of the deaths have been disbanded in attempts to quell the ever heightening tensions.

Thailand and Venezuela ignited protests domestically, whereas the shadow of Russia and the West have been all the more present in Ukraine and also, in Syria. “Russia’s involvement is complex, as it delves into power relationships surrounding the energy markets as well as Putin’s dream to resurrect Russian domination in the region”, explains Irena Schneider, expert in political economy for post-Soviet countries, adding that “Though Russia has tried to promote paranoia and fear of destabilization, too much blood has been spilled for the Eurasian project to maintain a shred of credibility for all free thinking, critically-minded people in the world”.

Dissent taken to the streets

All of these countries are struggling between the people’s will and the politicians’ impositions. Schneider argues that “the open society has a universal attraction, and has touched the hearts and minds of citizens in both Russia and Ukraine. The ideas of liberty are stronger than those of brute force and oppression”. Salas has argued that “young Venezuelan students go to the streets because they fear that life and all their dreams are shattered by policies that suppress individuality and prosperity”.

Both Venezuela and Ukraine show – with a difference of degree –  that when a government overreaches from its proper limits, citizens are willing to fight for ideals like democracy, liberty and justice.  As Benjamin Constant said, abstract ideas take concrete individuals as their victims.

Elie Wiesel wrote that “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented”. From a distance, readers of this article can do best by taking a side, get informed and put pressure on their own governments not to remain silent when they witness injustice.

 

 

 

The long road to nowhere

1743261_630024780396371_90855647_n

Courage, devastation, anger and sorrow all mix together in these stunning stories that represent the migration struggle in South America. Luis Eduardo Barrueto reports from Guatemala the tragedy of crossing the Mexican border that immigrants have to face, bravely risking their lives to reach the ‘American dream’.  

The Faces of Migration 
The producers of the Mexican film, The Golden Cage (La jaula de oro, 2013), decided to portray the story with more than a dash of hyperrealism when they searched for their cast in Guatemalan communities with a high degree of emigration. The selected cast portrays the two Guatemalan youngsters – a boy and a girl – and a Mexican tzotzil boy in their route across Mexico towards the United States.

The cast is composed of non-actors. According to producer Inna Payán, they were very much aware that the story they were portraying was all too real, all too painful.

The action portrayed is thus on the dividing line between fiction and documentary but it struck a cord with European critics when it was presented at the Cannes Film Festival. Its possible that analysing a story that takes place across the Atlantic Ocean allows Europeans to fully understand the logic of the migration that takes place, in a different guise, within their own borders?

La arrocera
One work of non-fiction however, is the story of Paola, interviewed by Oscar Martínez in a project called “On the road”, by the regional digital newspaper El Faro.

Paola, a Guatemalan transexual, was 23 when she narrated the story of unbuckling belts and whispered negotiations behind her back on board a train recently into the Mexican border in her trip (“You go first, then it’s my turn”). These raw comments did not disturb her upheld posture when she decided to interrupt them and without even turning her back to see their reactions, she told them to do whatever they wanted with one condition : “Look, do whatever you want but wear condoms. There are a few in my backpack, the red one over there. I recommend you do that because I have AIDS”. She added a not-so-veiled threat: “I though you were too manly and only fucked women”, despite the fact that she had by then effectively switched identities at the time and did not recognize herself as anything but a woman.

Paola didn’t have AIDS, but what she did have after five years of being a prostitute, was a precise intuition of men’s measure, added to a self-earned resilience. She was left alone, not without being robbed and insulted profusely first, but this demonstrated that her false threat had been effective. Tall and victorious, she took what was left in her red backpack, put on some makeup and a black blouse, and was then certain about that which she had only previously ever been warned of: something always happens in La arrocera. All 45 of her companions were assaulted in this short section between Tapachula and Arriaga, a danger zone for migrants that consists of barely 28 ranches and takes its name from an inhabited rice warehouse that is falling apart in the road.

Unspoken kidnappings
Barely across the border from Guatemala, la arrocera is one of the first hardships that travelling across Mexico presents the migrants with, but it is hardly the only one. Tapachula, Tenosique, Ciudad Hidalgo are all frontier towns in the south of Mexico where abductions are common practice, as Oscar Martinez reports for the newspaper El Faro. Migrants fret, alarmed, asking for someone to do something, as well as asking for anonymity when they speak to journalists as they describe what happens daily in that territory. The Zetas and their allies, in broad daylight, kidnap dozens of Central Americans and place them in houses that are well known to many people – including the authorities.

“The commercial logic is simple”, writes Martínez, “It is better to kidnap 40 people over several days in order to get a ransom of around $300 per person [from their relatives in the United States, usually], than kidnapping just one businessman, who despite delivering the money in one go, may call up the attention of the press and the police”.

Those are the kidnappings whose stories are untold and whose victims remain without proper recourse or compensation. They wouldn’t denounce it even if they could, because that may put them in danger of deportation, setting their whole journey back to the starting point.

The beast
José Luis Fernández, 17, took every precaution, survived the assaults and the perks of such hard travelling. He never imagined fainting from the heat in the last train he boarded from Torreón to Juárez. He boarded and he was sitting in a small juncture where the wagons couple together, and he tells journalist Alejandra Gutiérrez for news website Plaza Publica that “I was sitting, but my feet were hurting from the swelling caused by all the walking. I was thinking about that when the lights turned off and I fell. It was like a faint. Imagine that. I took care of not falling asleep, from not being caught by the migration police, from the assaults, but I never thought that I would faint. The heat in Chihuahua and the fact that I hadn’t eaten in three days made me fall. The train pulled me and I woke up, the train cut my leg and the pain made me reach for it with my arm, which also got caught. I wanted to die because I didn’t even lose consciousness and couldn’t even move to get myself killed by the train […] I’m only alive because a man passed by and immediately called the Red Cross”.

His story is representative of yet another danger posed by migration, caused by the crossing of Río Bravo in the US-Mexican border or in the process of climbing aboard and getting off moving trains, regularly between 10 and 15 trains in total across from Arriaga, Chiapas, towards different points in the northern border. The whole network is dubbed The beast or the Death Train because the falls and deaths are not uncommon, due to a mix of tiredness, famine, and emotional stress. The question remains open regarding what states could change towards their migration policy to make it more efficient, and also, more humane.

A global phenomenon
Though these stories are an attempt to portray migrants’ reality, they are all but fragmentary bits and pieces of an incredibly complex phenomenon with scarcely any systematically compiled information. The way that their episodes are framed in this piece avoids the usual narrative provided by most media’s treatment of migration.

Inasmuch as their accounts can be fully provided with context, they are a representation of a story that is familiar to Central Americans and Mexicans en route to the United States, but also to Cuban balseros, groups of Africans arriving to land in the European mediterranean coasts or Iranians crossing, via Indonesia, towards the Christmas Island in Australia in harsh sea. Despite differences in transport mode, hardships faced and outcomes achieved, the reality of migration is this one: they leave because to die trying is preferable than to remain living, in a land deprived of opportunities.