Migration: “Me voy pal norte” vs. “La Bestia”

There are migrants like myself who travel with documents and reach their place of settlement via airplanes or buses and across borders where clashes with authorities are minimal or no more than one would expect. It is the kind of migration where you think of such title as a mere comparison of your journey to that of the journeys of wild animals who escape winters. This mode of travel condenses time and distorts the notion of distance, and does not challenge the body’s survival instincts.

Lately and relatively recently, mass and independent media took the task of documenting and disseminating stories of refugees around the world who flee their homes and the homes of their ancestors to escape both man-made and natural disasters. The boats that cross the Mediterranean ocean to Europe are a symbol of the refugee world, depicting precariousness, hope, courage, and uncertainty. Those who flee thousands of miles, in the most recondite regions of the world, under the radar, off the grid, leaving no trace in the tourist industry, acquire a new understanding of the workings of time and space in our planet. I imagine that many must have stopped asking themselves what day of the week it is with the fear that it might be yet again Wednesday for the millionth time.

Me voy pal norte, is what they say back home in Honduras when announcing the decision to leave in search of a better life in the U.S. For some, this idea brings images of long lines at the embassy while issuing a VISA, images of airports, and of everything from home that will be left behind. There are others, however, to whom the thought of leaving home will kindle the taste of sand, a smell of grease and smoke, a loud and seemingly never-ending rumble of an old train dragging itself upon its rusty tracks. La Bestia is the symbol for the journey of Latin American migrants who have no more to lose than they hope to gain. La Bestia is a cargo train that transports e-waste, metals, and migrants through Mexico and to the border of US. The image of La Bestia imposes itself onto the hopes and ambitions of migrants as they approach its tracks after days of walking in the desert, with little food and sleep. For many passengers, the feeling of helplessness that comes from placing their trust upon this old, heaving, and deceitful machine is not a first.

Trent Oxfam and Student Association of International Development bring you Marc Silver’s film, Who is Dayani Cristal? (2013), in which the short-lived journey of a Honduran migrant helps outline the issues that surround the broader topic of migration while still focusing on those who do not have access to documented travel. The movie screening will be taking place in the Champlain Council Chambers at Trent University Symons campus on Tuesday January 16th at 8 PM. After the film, the audience will be encouraged to participate in a small discussion about the film.

It is the migrants who travel by foot, in cargo ships, and cargo trains those who understand that migration is not a metaphor, but that humans, like geese who escape winters, must sometimes leave places where life seems no longer possible.