One funny thing about being in La Patrona, about being on this side,1 is that now I root for everyone to get across safely.
Not that I was against it before; but when you talk with folks and come to understand the hardship they've come from is so severe that the hardship they're going to—on the other side, in the U.S.—looks like paradise; when you see a train where the folks get off and you see the faces terrified by something that happened along the line, when you can see it in their eyes and the ways they move their bodies, and you know that the stories of the Zeta kidnappings are not a joke2; when a good-looking, dark-skinned Honduran3 with just a wisp of a beard on his chin tells you, tells you, that "to go to the US and work as a painter, maybe in a garden, it is my dream"; when a man who's fallen off the train, who slipped when he was climbing up a ladder as the train started moving off a siding, is more concerned with finding a friend from home again that being treated for his abrasions and contusions and the gravel still lodged in his back; when you see a couple every day who are working in Mexico because their third friend who they were travelling with robbed them one night, including their shoes, and was gone in the morning; when they casually mention that for four days further south there was nothing to eat but mangos; when all the migrants want to learn a few phrases in English, and you've got the line about us not really using "good afternoon" down4; when the guys who didn't make it, the guys going back home—Santos from El Salvador one night, and before him Rene from Honduras, and before him Hector (also) from El Salvador—talk your ear off because they've been so scared and reserved and caution and alone for two and a half months (Santos) or two months (Rene) or three months (Hector); when one of the guys going home tells you he only finished the second year of primary school and later asks you, the gringo, the guys he's speaking to with simple words so you can have a conversation—he asks you how to spell "Calle de la Cruz"; when you talk to the migrants going either direction and realize that whatever they earn is always divided up, always remitted, in other words that they give to the families that they can only go back and see on pain of completing (or not) their journeys north again; when they are thankful for being recognized as people, just that; it is hard not to want them to find what they are after.
1Este lado and otro lado, this side and the other side, are the ways we talk about the border here.
2See, for instance, 72 Migrantes, which tells the stories of the 72 bodies found in San Fernando, Tamaulipas in August 2010. San Fernando is about 1,000 km north of La Patrona, 1,000 km closer to the border; most of the time 1,000 km more hopeful.
3Oh man, Mexico and race is craziness. I can only assert to you that this is pertinent.
4In Spanish it's normal to switch from "buenos dias" to "buenas tardes" at noon. We don't really do that.