The Beast, or to give it its Spanish name, la Bestia, is the name given to a network of northbound freight trains on which Central American immigrants travel to the United States. As with all immigrants, they’re looking to build better lives for themselves and their children. But those who ride the Beast are taking huge risks with their lives. As many of them travel in the open air, they’re also vulnerable to falling to their deaths onto the railroad tracks.
Many of these immigrants are unaccompanied children, who are often deeply traumatized by their journey to the United States. This is because there are numerous dangers associated with riding the Beast, such as death from exposure, rape and violence at the hands of people smugglers, thieves, and corrupt police officers. There is a saying about the Beast: “Go in alive, come out a mummy”, and it’s not hard to see why.
Yet at the same time, the Beast represents hope for those who ride the network, the hope of a better life. Despite all the numerous dangers involved, something like half a million immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere in Central America ride the Beast every year in a desperate attempt to escape poverty. the Beast may seem like a strong symbol of hope, to put it mildly, but for the undocumented immigrants who ride it, it’s the only hope they have.