Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cartoons 18: Shelter for Sons of the Beast

One of our first stops in the caravan was a shelter that was built close to the border between Mexico and Guatemala that was established as a refuge for sick or injured immigrants. "The Beast" has become the name of the cargo train upon which undocumented immigrants ride through Mexico on their way to the United States. (I originally thought that this train went through Central America so that's why the drawing shows it there.) The path of these people is incredibly violent.  As shown in the picture, the immigrants ride on top of the train. Many loose their lives because, having traveled for long periods of time in constant risk and without rest, they simply fall asleep and fall off the train. One young man told me that he got caught up in the adrenaline of the constant danger and began testing the limits jumping from train to train. He lost his footing and lost his legs.  A woman that I met told me that woman who travel this path pray that rape is all that happens to them...
When we arrived at the shelter, I stepped out of the motor-home, saw the people missing legs and arms, and I stepped right back in. I sat my butt down in the bathroom of the motor-home and cried all the tears my eyes could squeeze out.  Out of respect, I didn't want to cry in front of these folks who have lost so much fighting for the opportunities that I was born with.  I closed my eyes and imagined myself growing roots.  Time to face reality.  As grounded as possible, I stepped out and almost immediately, a woman with one eye in a wheel chair called me to her.  She spoke garbled Spanish but I eventually understood that she wanted me to roll her into her room and put her next to the fan.  It was HOT.  I met the other two woman who lived in the room, one missing a leg and the other didn't speak.  The two vocal women started squibbling over who the owner of the fan was and I just sat down in a plastic garden chair that was one of the few pieces of furniture.  In the face of basic humanity of the squibbling woman, all of my big understanding of the social systems that brought us to this moment faded out and with it my anxiety about being there...

We stayed at the shelter for three days learning about how it functions and interviewing workers and residents. On the last night, we did a social circus show for the folks living there and in the surrounding community.  Afterward we performed excerpts of the show in the rooms of the folks who couldn't come out to see the show.  The moment in this picture moved me to tears.  During our performance was the only time I saw the woman lying in the bed open her eyes.


  1. Sara, that was quite moving. I saw a movie called 'Sin Nombre', about immigrants from South America going to The States. It was intense and so sad. Your experience at the Refugio exemplifies the want and need for a better life. After many suffer so much for a better life, your mission bringing smiles to their faces is so important. As the saying goes: 'keep on keeping on'. Your work is so valuable to those in need.

    1. Thank you so much Jose! Its awesome to hear from you. Thanks for mentioning that movie, i will check it out! I feel super fortunately to be able to do this work, the smiles are so incredibly reciprocal. i dont think i can express how much i learned from the folks in this shelter. they all work together to make it run- cooking and cleaning and helping each other to do what they need to do. such amazing strength and no one is complaining either. i am so fortunate to be able to meet folks like them. sending love!