Do people really get out of LA?

Migrants from Central AmericaWith "La Bestia" towards hope

The memory is still fresh. You can tell by looking at Walter. An internally and externally handicapped young man of 24 years with deeply sad eyes.

"On the second of this month, it was a month since my brother died. He was only 17 years old. They killed him because they wanted him to collect protection money and blackmail people."

The voice steady. But only a few moments later, Walter is crying. The younger brother murdered. The parents stayed behind in Honduras. The woman far away in the USA. He is stranded alone here in Salto de Agua in the deep southeast of Mexico. He left his homeland 15 days ago: first on foot to the Guatemalan border, then on by train with "La Bestia", the infamous, with which so many people from Central America seek their happiness. But the journey ends abruptly - shortly before Salto de Agua with a stopover.

Walter Xavier Galan was beaten up while fleeing from Honduras to the United States. (Deutschlandradio / Isabella Kolar)

"You got me down"

"I went into the shop and ten men came in behind me. I thought they wanted to buy something too. But then they said to me: Ah, there you are, come out with me. And then they started, to beat me. They had machetes and weapons, they knocked me out. When I got here I was completely beaten up. "

It's only been five days since Walter walked, covered in blood, to this sleepy town in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Here is the small, light blue chapel with a corrugated iron roof called "Santa Martha", in which illegal migrants - mainly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala - have been given asylum on their way to the USA for the last five years: a few foam mats on the concrete floor, clean clothes, two meals - no more. Right in front of the door: the train tracks.

In the Santa Martha Chapel in Salto de Agua: Luiz Figeroa from El Salvador, Ramón Mejia and Mario Soto from Honduras (from left) have fled their home countries and are on their way to the USA. (Matthias Hoch / Adveniat)

Nobody knows when "La Bestia" is coming

Nobody knows when "La Bestia" is coming. Their whistling from afar is the only signal. Then everything has to happen very quickly. Nobody knows whether it will stop, brisk swiftly or drive slowly so that the men can jump on the freight trains. Or get under the wheels, lose your life or your legs, says the Steyler missionary Joachim Mnich, who has lived in Chiapas for 27 years. And stands in the friendly afternoon sun, at 30 degrees and a blue sky, on the grassy track bed of "La Bestia". But the idyll is deceptive.

"At the moment, the government and the various agencies are policy that the train is no longer allowed to stand still. But it differs. For example, the train stopped here yesterday. And then the people who are waiting here for the train try to to step on it. "

The Steyler missionary Joachim Mnich has lived in Chiapas for 27 years and is committed to the migrants. (Deutschlandradio / Isabella Kolar)

The goal on the flight from violence, unemployment, poverty and corruption: to travel north with "La Bestia" via Mexico City to the USA. But for organized crime gangs, defenseless migrants are welcome victims on the roof of the train. They are robbed, raped, killed or used as drug couriers. And more and more people are still being arrested in Mexico and sent back to their home countries. End of the line longing.

Find work and fair wages in the United States

The metalworker Alfredo Majat, 56 years old, made it unscathed on foot from Honduras to Salto de Agua in six days. The slim, wiry man with the lively eyes sits with two companions on a mat on the floor in the anteroom of the chapel and spoons meat, vegetables and rice from a small white plastic bowl. The Honduran's eyes shine when he talks about the United States.

"Of course, it's always about coming to the US to find work and get a fair wage to help our families. And I have the strength to work for my seven children over the next few years. I want to I reach out before I die. And that's why I want to go to the United States. "

The metalworker Alfredo Majat wants to take care of his wife and seven children in Honduras from the USA. (Deutschlandradio / Isabella Kolar)

He's also waiting here for the jump to "La Bestia". The dream of better living conditions in the USA means that entire families in Central America are being torn apart. Alfredo's wife stays at home in Honduras with the children. And then dad sends the check from far away. "Money instead of love" for the whole family.

But before that there is "hell" for Alfredo, knows José Leopoldo González, Bishop of Nogales. There is also a migrant house with a train connection in his diocese in the far north on the border with the US state of Arizona.

This trip is hell for the migrants

"In Cavorca there is a house for migrants. 'La Bestia' comes by. And every morning there is breakfast for everyone. The foreign migrants become a commodity the moment they cross the southern border. And they have to suffer a lot until they are with us. This ride is hell. They are illegal and the criminal gangs use them for human trafficking. "

The bishop knows what he is talking about: He has already witnessed two massacres by the Narcos, the drug gangs. The temperamental man calls Mexico a paradoxical country. And his strong hands clasp the microphone as if he wanted to strangle someone.

The research for the trip to Mexico was supported by Adveniat, the Latin America Aid Organization for Catholics in Germany.