Katie Orlinsky

Life on the Tracks: Central American Migration in Mexico

Thousands of undocumented Central American migrants journey across Mexico every year, risking their lives in the hope of reaching the United States. They come from countries such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, where free trade economic policies have devastated local economies forcing men and women to leave their homes in search of a better life in the United States and Canada.

The journey often begins by crossing into Mexican border states such as Chiapas and Tabasco, and continues by riding freight trains known as "the beast." Train schedules are erratic, and migrants can spend anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks waiting in train yards that have grown increasingly dangerous.

Many migrants are victims of robbery, kidnapping, rape and extortion along the train route. They are forced to pay off everyone from thieves and gang-members to immigration officials and police on a regular basis, facing dire consequences if they do not cooperate. Due to the Drug War and the importance of human trafficking in the narco-economy, brutal treatment of migrants is currently at an all time high.