El Tren de la Muerte

From the Dallas Observer 

Winner of Best Feature in the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies 

immigrants.jpgElias dangles the dead iguana by the tail. His friends close in around him, watching hungrily. With a knife he slices through scaly green skin and peels it back to reveal bloody meat, dark red and glistening in the sun. Working quickly, he carves the lizard into sections—head, front and back legs, upper and lower torso—and drops the parts in a pan. Then he places it over the fire they've made near the train tracks. Sweat trickles down his forehead, stinging his eyes. The men are quiet while they wait for the lizard to cook. Sometimes they sing and tell stories, but for now they're too hot and hungry. They sit and watch the fire.

For three days they've been camped here, in the jungle of southern Mexico, about 40 miles from the Guatemalan border in a town called Tenosique. Hundreds of people sprawl in the dirt along the tracks. Many are young men, shirtless in the sticky heat, wearing tattered Nikes and grimy backpacks. But there are women and children too, teenage girls with painted-on jeans and mothers balancing kids on their hips. They lounge on pieces of cardboard and plastic, squat on porches, smoke in the awnings of makeshift storefronts. They wait.

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