El Tren de las Moscas

Thank you Mujeres of the NW for the documentary, “Tren de las Moscas”

I do not remember ever seeing a documentary more touching than this one, shot with few resources and great sensitivity by Nieves Prieto Tassie and Fernando López Castillo. This film choice – presented at our last meeting of Mujeres, on February 12th – could not have been more appropriate.

In general, political documentaries can outrage, infuriate or, in the worst cases, bore me. This one, however, filled my eyes with tears. It is about an unusual group of women from Amatlán (Veracruz, Mexico ) who daily prepare bottles of water and bags of food to throw to the “flies” (moscas).

I already knew about the so called “Tren de las moscas” (“Train of the Flies”), but under other even more dramatic names like “The Death Train” or “The Devil’s Train”. Whatever the names, they refer to freight trains onto which immigrants cling like flies on the roof, or hang on in the spaces between cars. Thousands of Central American migrants travel this way in order to reach the United States to escape unbearable poverty in their own countries. They cannot avoid having to travel through Mexico, of course. I also knew that in Mexico these migrants are chased by the police and by gangs, which harass and have been known to murder them, sometimes even en masse. Generally, townspeople blame the migrants for any act of violence or robbery in their towns.

I did not know about the small group of brave and caring Mexican women, lacking any official organization or support, but who feel the suffering of others as if it were their own. These women prepare, in their humble kitchens, tortillas, rice, bread, eggs, and other foodstuffs, and sometimes clothing, as well as water. These provisions they carry down to the railroad when “The Beast” is scheduled to pass by. They hold these offerings over their heads for the passing migrants to snatch at, sometimes missing, sometimes even scratching their hands inadvertently. Sometimes the ladies fling bottles of water strung together in twos for the migrants to catch in the air. The ladies stand perilously close to the swiftly-passing train. A chorus of “Thank you, grandma,” or “Gracias, Señora” fills the air as the train passes swiftly onward.

This documentary reminded me of the carousel that used to be in my town. Bobbing up and down on our wooden horses, we children would try to insert a nail into a ring attached to a pole next to the carousel as it went round and round. Children who could do this were given a prize. Perhaps this childhood association lent extra poignancy to the scene. But we never fell from the carousel horses. Not so the migrants, who often fall from the trains and are maimed or even killed by “The Beast”.

This film engenders conflicting emotions. On one hand it makes the heart sing; on the other the heart sinks. An important film with an important message, and well worth watching.

Note : Mujeres of the NW is an NGO whose members are Latino or Spanish-speaking professional women resident in Seattle, which provides support to Latino women in Washington state communities.


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