The Breakfast Table
When asked about the Casa experience, guests often recall one time/place during Casa stay that stands out above all others: breakfast. Monday through Friday 8-10am and Saturday, 9-11am, a Casa volunteer makes breakfast for other volunteers, program coordinators, guests, solidarity hospitality lodging guests (refugees that stay at the Casa free of charge), and miscellaneous members of the Casa community. On any given morning it’s an interesting and diverse mix of people–and therein lies the impact. It’s the opportunity to meet and talk with new people who are each learning about and experiencing Mexico often in a deep and meaningful way.
Lately, it’s been dark when I wake up to make breakfast. The house is still, and my first mission is to by bread at La Universal, a bakery just around the corner. On my way to pick up the breakfast rolls, I pass a steady stream of morning commuters and the bare bones of street stalls that are in the process of being set up. In that moment I’m thankful that the donut man is just barely rolling out the dough–still, I look away to resist the temptation.
So far for breakfast I’ve made chilaquiles, latkes, home fries, carrots, and dozens upon donzens of eggs. Other volunteers have made pancakes, sopes, molletes, vegetables, and many other (simply) delicious breakfasts. Volunteers typically cook once a week, and it’s become one of my favorite parts of the week. I get to put on music and cook as the sun rises, while look forward to serving the house it’s first meal of the day.
Standing by the train tracks at Tultitlán on Friday, we waited in the hot sun for “La Bestia” to pass by. Looking south, we searched for any sign of an oncoming train, the infamous passage for thousands of migrants traveling through Mexico from Southern Mexico and Central America. The cargo train passes every few hours in the small town just North of Mexico City, carrying up to hundreds of people at a time. This time when the train passed we scanned carefully for signs of life. We spotted three or four sleeping people, as the train rattled by accompanied by the haunting sounds of steel against steel.
We went to the train route accompanied by two Hondurans, both who originally came to Mexico with the intention of continuing on to the U.S. Due to the escalating situation of violence in the migration route in Northern Mexico, both were halted in Mexico City unsure of their next step. The rise in cartel violence in Mexico has been accompanied by an exploding economy of extortion, kidnapping and robbery of migrants. The train, which was once the only cheap way to get across Mexico is now under surveillance by competing forces of private train security details (with the job of forceably shoving people off the train), cartels, coyotes, and any number of other dangers which make the trip perilous at best.
It was difficult to take in this horrifying reality of mistreatment and abuse, in what seemed (in the moments before the train passed) to otherwise be a quiet Mexican town. Just miles down the tracks the areas of Lechería and Huehuetoca have become overrun by gang activity which has forced shelters and food pantries for migrants to shut down. It seems unbelievable that so many would risk their lives so perilously on a train hurtling into the unfamiliar and impossible geography of life as an undocumented person (either in Mexico or the United States). But what is made clear by these patterns of migration is that for those that choose to attempt the trip from Central America, especially Honduras, even the threats of migration beat the hunger and violence faced back home.