As soon as they arrived in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, a group of mostly Venezuelan refugees and migrants threw their belongings to the ground and slid off the top of a freight train, happy to be on solid ground.
The freight train, commonly known as La Bestia (the beast) had carried more than 1,000 “train surfers” on its roof on a 10-day journey through Mexico to the United States border.
It had not been an easy trip, in addition to having to spend days and nights balanced precariously on top of the moving train, the people had to avoid Mexican migration agencies that were trying to get them off the train, according to Daiverson Munoz, a 20-year-old from Venezuela.
“And we’re stuck in the middle of the desert. But it’s nothing, we’re here and we feel super happy because we’re about to realise our dream. It’s been hard but not impossible.
“The hardest part was seeing how many people were injured” during the journey, said Munoz, a law student in his native country.
Jeffri Gomez, a 24-year-old Venezuelan woman who was travelling with her husband and their one-year-old child, was relieved to have come to the end of the journey that had been filled with peril.
The train had started out about 1,800km (1,120 miles) to the south in the State of Mexico, and many of the train surfers had been injured along the way.
The final 370km (230 miles) of the trip took 17 hours due to the number of stops, Munoz said.
The risky trip has become virtually the only option for people hoping to reach the US border in pursuit of a safer, better life because it is nearly impossible to buy passenger tickets.
Mexico’s main rail operator cut its traffic by 30 percent in mid-September, as the government tightened security measures to prevent people from getting on the trains.
As soon as they arrived, the travellers came across an official from the Mexican National Institute of Migration and a barbed-wire wall from the Texas National Guard on the banks of the Rio Bravo, a natural border with the US.