proceed somewhere despite the risk of possible dangers
She left them there when she
ventured north as a single mother to work in the United States.
the state of having little or no money and possessions
She hoped she could provide her children an escape from their grinding
poverty, a chance to attend school beyond the sixth grade.
a state in which all hope is lost or absent
What kind of
desperation, I wondered, pushes children as young as seven years old to set out, alone, through such a hostile landscape with nothing but their wits?
travel across or pass over
To follow Enrique’s journey, I
traversed thirteen of Mexico’s thirty-one states.
traveler who moves from one region or country to another
Until my journey with
migrant children, I had no true understanding of what people are willing to do to get here.
firmness of purpose
With each step north, I became awed by the gritty
determination these children possess in their struggle to get here.
face and withstand with courage
They are willing to
endure misery and dangers for months on end.
the trait of being firm in purpose or belief
They come armed with their faith, a
resolve not to return to Central America defeated, and a deep desire to be at their mothers’ sides.
recovery or preservation from loss or danger
Although in the United States the women struggle to pay rent and eat, in the imaginations of their children back home they become
deliverance itself, the answer to every problem.
having a clear mind
lucid enough to tell Belky that he knows what he has to do: he has to go find his mother.
rescuing or protecting someone or something from harm
But Enrique fears he will end up on the streets or dead. Only his mother can help him. She is his
strike violently and repeatedly
The day’s work is done at Las Anonas, a railside hamlet of thirty-six families in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, when a field hand, Sirenio Gomez Fuentes, sees a startling sight: a
battered and bleeding boy, naked except for his undershorts.
producing no result or effect
Giving Enrique clothing will be
futile, Carrasco thinks, if he can’t find someone with a car who can get the boy to medical help.
destroy or injure severely
The migrants most badly
mangled by the train run up bills of $1,000 to $1,500 each when they end up at a public hospital one and a half hours away.
not straight; dishonest or immoral or evasive
Enrique has already had other run-ins with
corrupt Mexican cops.
obtain by coercion or intimidation
Four of five migrants who arrive at the Albergue Belen shelter in Tapachula have already been robbed, beaten, or
extorted by police, says the shelter priest, Flor Maria Rigoni.
fraught with danger
Now he is a veteran of a
perilous pilgrimage by children, many of whom come looking for their mothers and travel any way they can.
a transverse and enclosed drain under a road or railway
He has slept on the ground; in a sewage
culvert, curled up with other migrants; on top of gravestones.
show submission or fear
Once he was deported at 2 A.M. and spent the night
cowering, sleepless, near the border guard station, afraid for his life.
earnest and conscientious activity intended to do something
This is his seventh try, and it is on this
attempt that he suffers the injuries that leave him in the hands of the kind people of Las Anonas.
an outlaw who is (usually) a member of a group
Arriaga’s Red Cross workers retrieve, on average, ten migrants per month who have fallen or been beaten up by
bandits or gangsters.
Already, Enrique has four jagged scars on his shins from
frenzied efforts to board trains.
make ready for action or use
He grabs one of its ladders,
summons all of his strength, and pulls himself up.
shrewdness as demonstrated by being skilled in deception
Enrique guesses there are more than two hundred migrants on board, a tiny army of them who charged out of the cemetery with nothing but their
His hands would turn numb and
callous after hours of hanging on.
run off or leave the tracks
Enrique was once on a train that
a loud harsh or strident noise
Migrants at the front of the train, nearest to the locomotive, call back a warning over the train’s deafening
escape, either physically or mentally
Of the half-dozen checkpoints Enrique has
eluded in southern Mexico, he fears La Arrocera most.
attack and bombard with or as if with missiles
As he runs, three agents follow on the ground,
pelting him with rocks and sticks, an experience many migrants say they have here.
run away quickly
flees from car to car, more than twenty in all, struggling to keep his footing each time he leaps from a hopper to a fuel tanker, which is lower and has a rounded top.
a large knife used as a weapon or for cutting vegetation
In the scrub brush, though, Enrique worries less about agents than about madrinas with
able or disposed to inflict pain or suffering
The name for these men is a play on words: these civilians help the authorities, as a madrina, or godmother, would, and administer madrizas, or
having or covered with protective points, spines, or thorns
He crawls under a barbed-wire fence, then under a double strand of smooth wire.
express opposition through action or words
resist are beaten or killed.
judiciousness in avoiding harm or danger
Maybe it was his extra
caution, maybe it was his decision to run, maybe it was his attempt to lie flat and hide atop the boxcar, which delayed his getting off the train and gave the bandits an opportunity to target migrants ahead of him.
harass with persistent criticism or carping
Boys like Enrique are called “stinking undocumented.” They are cursed,
taunted. Dogs are set upon them. Barefoot children throw rocks at them.
a person who is tricked or swindled
Migrants, who are often afraid to press charges, make ideal
crowd or draw together
Many of the migrants on Enrique’s train
huddle together, hoping for safety in numbers.
an event that will inevitably happen in the future
Having avoided the
fate of many other migrants, Enrique reaches Ixtepec, a southern crossroads in Oaxaca, the next state north, 285 miles into Mexico.
urgently needed; absolutely necessary
Blending in is
critical. Migrants clip labels off clothes from Central America. Some buy Mexican clothes or ones sporting the name of a Mexican soccer team.