Adenis clutched at his blankets, trying to stay warm. Even his water bottles were frozen. Atop a boxcar with nothing to grip, he carefully tore open a packet of single-serving instant coffee and poured some of the granules into his mouth. Here, caffeine is a lifeline. Riding atop La Bestia, falling asleep could mean a lost limb or an early grave.
La Bestia, the Beast, also known as the Train of Death and the Train of the Unknowns, is a freight train scissoring Mexico from south to north. Migrants who cannot afford bus tickets or smugglers ride it, avoiding immigration agents and the police. The train’s nickname is well-earned. Traveling at speeds up to 62 mph as it careens around bends, through tunnels, and under jungle trees, the train shakes the men, women, and children clinging to its top. Some describe riding it as trying to mount a bull.
Some ride the train for days under an unforgiving sun. On top of the train, there is no opportunity to wash up. Dirt, dust, dead bugs, and grime coat exposed faces and hands. Only when the train stops do the people clinging to the boxcar roofs have the opportunity to clean up and restore their dignity.
More than a Hygiene Kit
You know how vital feeling clean is to maintaining self-respect. That’s why you showed up for people fleeing poverty and violence in Mexico. At our partner’s shelter in Chihuahua, our community of peacemakers handed out 200 hygiene kits and backpacks to people taking a break from the Beast.
Rito, a Venezuelan displaced by economic devastation, was especially excited. “Being clean brings me joy,” he says, “and having kits like the ones you provided us is wonderful.” Inside our hygiene kits are shampoo, cream, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, wipes, and bars of soap made by refugees in Iraq.
Linda, the director of the shelter, recognizes how important having a hot shower is for people in mobility. Because people often arrive at the shelter with cuts or open wounds on their feet from the Beast, the shelter provides each person with clean shower sandals to prevent disease. “We know that it has been a long and challenging journey for the people seeking to cross to the US. We just want to provide a little bit of relief for them with some food, water, and the chance of a good night’s rest and a hot shower. Give some dignity back to their lives for at least a couple of hours or days. We are family, and everyone deserves to be assisted.” She loves that refugees oceans away are helping refugees in Mexico by making soap for our hygiene kits.
As the Biden Administration reevaluates its immigration policy, it is considering restarting the detention of migrant families who cross the border unlawfully. Many families waiting to cross are fleeing poverty and violence plaguing their communities. They risk their lives as they travel north because staying where they are is the more dangerous option. If you think everyone deserves assistance, consider joining us as we stand by our migrant friends in these times of evolving immigration policy. A small donation says “Yes” to restoring dignity through personal hygiene. Subscribing to our blog reaffirms that we belong to each other. Sharing this story is taking a step towards building a more peaceful world.
Say “Yes!” to restoring dignity and giving joy with hygiene kits.