What type of victimization occurs in Enrique's Journey?
In Enrique's Journey, immigrants from Mexico and Central America brave extreme dangers to ride the trains to the United States. The story centers on Enrique, a Honduran boy who hopes to find his mother in America. He is seventeen years old when he finally manages to reach Chiapas; there, he finds that his suffering has only just begun. Young, illegal immigrants such as Enrique, many searching for their mothers, endure untold dangers and great suffering to reach their intended destination. They are victimized by bandits, violent gangsters, and el migra (the Mexican immigration authorities). Since many stops on the way North advertise similar dangers, I will concentrate on Enrique's experience in Chiapas.
Bandits often patrol migrant areas to terrorize helpless immigrants. Since many citizens in Chiapas often view Central American immigrants in a negative light, bandits seize upon this prejudice to further their own aims. Groups of bandits wait in hiding to ambush unsuspecting migrants. If the migrants refuse to part with their money, they are hacked to death by machetes, shot execution-style, or, in the case of young women, gang-raped, tortured, and brutally murdered.
Meanwhile, citizens in Chiapas see migrants as opportunists who come to take job opportunities away from the local populace. They assert that Central American migrants bring disease, crime, and prostitution to their towns. It doesn't help the migrants' case that good Samaritans who have housed these migrants have been brutalized and murdered by them. So, on one hand, the migrants have to face suspicion from the citizens of Chiapas, and on the other hand, they have to face the threat of a violent death from fearsome bandit gangs.
Young men from dangerous gangs 'own' sections of freight trains traveling from Central America to the United States. What this means is that any migrant who wishes to ride the top of any freight train to America will find himself/herself at the mercy of violent gangsters. The most feared gangs are the Mara Salvatrucha and its rival, the Barrio 18 (18th Streeters). According to the author, many of these gang members, deported from America for violent crime, have settled in Chiapas. There, they unleash their own brand of violence upon hapless migrants like Enrique.
These gangsters often scout out the migrant population at train stops. They watch and wait, approach migrants in a friendly manner, and try to win their trust. When the migrants climb up the freight train cars, the gangsters are waiting for them. They demand money for the right to stay on top of the freight trains. Migrants who don't comply find themselves thrown off trains or murdered in cold blood, their bodies left on top of the cars. As a result of this, workers at train stops often discover gruesome sights which turn their stomachs. Any migrant who attempts to contact the authorities soon finds out that it isn't worth it: the gangsters root out informants mercilessly.
The Mexican immigration agents tasked with border control often resort to physical violence to apprehend migrants. Since many migrants do not want to get caught, they often flee, running from car to car on the tops of trains, with agents in hot pursuit. Frustrated agents often resort to throwing stones and sticks at the migrants. The Mexican immigration agents also work hand in hand with the madrinas, citizens who aid the agents in their work.
Tasked with scouting out illegal migrants, these fearsome madrinas are often armed with machetes and arrogant in their assumption of imputed police powers. According to the author, many human rights activists assert that the madrinas resort to horrendous physical violence to intimidate migrants; with the assent of corrupt immigration authorities, the migrants are further rendered powerless in the face of unrelenting violence.