Las Patronas are a group of Mexican women who provide care packages to the Central American migrants that pass through their small town – La Patrona, Veracruz. The migrants, who sit on the cargo train known as La Bestia (The Beast) are greeted with food parcels thrown on to the carriages by the women as they journey to the northern border.
Las Patronas has been around for over two decades and have won many awards for their charitable organisation. The band was started by Norma Romero Vazquez and her sister, they had been out shopping and were walking alongside the tracks, waiting for the La Bestia to pass so they could go home. However, the migrants called out to them to say that they were hungry so the sisters threw their cartons of milk and loaves of bread onto the carriages. When the sisters got home, their mother was happy to hear about their instinctive acts of kindness and encouraged them to create 30 ration packs to give to the migrants on a daily basis. Today, Las Patronas now make 300 lunches daily which consists of corn tortillas, rice and beans, they also give out biscuits and fruits. Since 1995, the organisation has grown to around 20 members and they have also received widespread attention, winning Mexico’s most prestigious human rights prize in 2013 – Premio Nacional de Derechos Humanos.
Poverty and violence which predominantly affect Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua has led to many Central Americans fleeing north to reach the U.S border. With migrants falling from atop the carriages, losing limbs or worse their life, the journey on the La Bestia through Mexico is very dangerous. In addition, the migrants are also faced with violent gangs who are involved in robbery, rape, trafficking, kidnapping and murder. So once the train passes through the little village Veracruz, it is surely a relief to see Las Patronas offering a welcoming hand.
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