Photos and captions by Heather Stone/Chicago Tribune.
Daisy Méndez Mendoza of Honduras cries as she describes how she was raped three years ago on her first trip across the border between Guatemala and Mexico. “I don’t feel safe. I don’t. A woman is in much greater danger than a man,” she says, her face reddened by her tears and breathless heat. This was Mendoza’s second attempt to go to the United States. On this trip she was propositioned by other women to work as a prostitute in one of the border towns. She was taking a small break from her journey at the Casa del Migrante, a small haven for immigrants located near Tapachula, Mexico. April 2005.
A Honduran woman debates whether she should attempt jumping onto the train in Ciudad Hidalgo, the city on the Mexican side of the border near Guatemala. The train is one of the most dangerous places for women. Many are raped. Gangs run the train and rob many of the immigrants, and injuries occur frequently when people fall off the train. April 2005.
“Wendy,” a prostitute, works and lives in a small, airless cement block room in the back of a bar, where she gets $6 from each customer. On good days, she said that she has about eight customers. Many women never make it across the border due to the high cost of hiring a “coyote.” Tecun Uman, Guatemala, April 2005.
The child of an immigrant who was run over by “The Beast,” the nickname for a freight train on the Chiapas-Mayab railway that immigrants use for transport, sleeps under a cross with crutches at the Inn of Jesus the Good Father for the Poor and Immigrants in Tapachula, Mexico. The inn is run by Olga Sanchez, who lives in Tapachula, which is on the border of Guatemala. Fourteen years ago, she started the Good Father shelter to help illegal Central American immigrants who suffered horrific accidents trying to cross Mexico’s border on their way to the United States. April 2005.
Immigrants and merchants cross the Suchiate River, which borders Mexico and Guatemala near the town of Tecun Uman, Guatemala, about 1,500 miles from the U.S. border. Even though there is an official border crossing at Tecun Uman into Mexico, many people choose to wade through the water or go by raft. Helping migrants cross the river is a small industry for ferry-men who will take people across on an inner tube raft for a couple of quetzales. April 2005.
María Magdalena Bresuela-Cambalas, 25, left her three children to find a way to support them. She would not beg for any man’s support, she told me. Nor, she added, would she sell herself. So when she was laid off last fall from a foreign-owned clothing factory in El Salvador, where she earned $34 a week, she headed north. Getting on “The Beast” in Ciudad Hidalgo, where many immigrants frm Guatemala begin their train ride in Mexico, wasn’t a problem. But soon she had to get off because Mexican immigration inspectors were up ahead. One of the men traveling with her was supposed to hold her as she jumped, but she slipped and fell under the train’s wheels. One foot was cut off; another was still dangling. Here she is seen working on her embroidery at the Inn of Jesus the Good Father for the Poor and Immigrants in Tapachula, Mexicao. April 2005.
Heather Stone has been a staff photographer at the Chicago Tribune since 1998.
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