Estación de Tren Arriaga

After Hurricane Stan wiped out the railroad tracks in Tapachula, Chiapas in 2005, Arriaga became the place where Central American migrants caught the train north. La Bestia (or the Beast), as it came to be called, was an efficient but dangerous, even deadly, means of transportation. Migrants traveling with family or in groups, would cling to the grates on the top of the train. When they slept, they would tie themselves to the metal bars so that they would not fall off. Members of drug cartels such as Los Zetas and other organized crime groups would get up on the roof of the train and accost the travelers. They asked for money (one hundred US dollars was the usual amount), and killed those who could not pay. Arriaga teemed with migrants and with the many people who lived off of them—those who sold them water, food, clothes, hats, and just about anything else.

When we went in 2015, Arriaga was almost empty. Plan Frontera Sur had made it almost impossible to travel by train, as migration authorities regularly stopped and searched any trains traveling north. The train had also picked up speed in order to make it more difficult, and more dangerous, to hold onto the grates on top. Local merchants complained about the lack of work. One woman who owned a small eatery said she missed them, and she wished they’d come back.


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