By Amy Lieberman
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
A teenager is migrating alone from Honduras through Mexico, hoping to reach siblings in South Dakota. She feels threatened and wants to turn back, but carries on, hoping that she'll be one of the lucky ones.
TULTITLAN, Mexico (WOMENSENEWS)--Exhausted from walking long distances the night before, Joyce was sleeping silently on the floor of the migrant shelter here, curled on her side, when a shelter organizer woke her up to tell her story to a reporter.
She was the only woman among roughly 150 men and boys, some as young as 14.
The cold by now had eased and her hunger subsided. But the worry about the man who had threatened the 19-year-old persisted. He said he'd find her on the road ahead.
Joyce took the trip from Honduras after her mother paid a smuggler fee to help her get across the United States and Mexico border, in hopes of reaching her siblings in South Dakota.
But on a train she ran into the threatening man.
"I was by myself all the way [traveling by train] until a guy asked me to come with him and said otherwise he would kill me," Joyce said, speaking through a Spanish translator. She asked that her last name not be mentioned. "I went to these El Salvadorian guys and asked if they would protect me. They have protected me, but this guy who threatened me, he told me that he will find me up farther north and that I will pay for that then."
A freight train runs through this mellow town. Its hoots one recent afternoon served as a muffled alarm to the shelter, which resembled a crowded male dorm with the sole exception of Joyce. A few young men snored noisily on bare mattresses in the shelter's main room while the rest sat slumped against the chipped white walls, waiting for the next train at 2 p.m.
The trains are a rough way to travel.
"People climb onto trains when they are moving," said Rupert Knox, Amnesty International's Mexico researcher and author of a recent report on violence against Central American migrants. "People just have to find a spot to hold on to and the whole roof is heaving with people, just sitting on hot steel. And then, whoops, you fall down into the track--you get pulled under the train. Losing limbs is a constant."
Six out of 10 Central American migrant women experience sexual violence during their voyage, Amnesty International said in the April report, "Invisible Victims: On the Move in Mexico." It's difficult to ascertain exactly how many unauthorized Central American female migrants cross the border to the United States annually, but the International Organization for Migration estimates that upwards of 100,000 make the journey each year.
The majority of the victims--most of them young and single--don't report the incidents because they don't want to stall their trips, said Lupita Calzada, an organizer of the migrant shelter where Women's eNews found Joyce resting.