Sunday, May 1, 2016

Oscar Martinez

Oscar Martinez, a Salvadoran journalist, has published two books on Central America. One follows the migrants going north (The Beast). The other, recently published, lays out the quality of violence in Central America (A History of Violence)

From the Beast:
Another half an hour passes, and we’ve left the dust path for the scrubland of a private ranch. We approach the front door of a small ranch house where a man, the first person we’ve encountered on our walk, is listening to a boom box at full volume. We wave to get his attention, and ask if we’re on the right path to the river. “Yeah,” he answers. “Straight ahead. But be careful. Last week some bandits murdered a migrant and his coyote right around here.” This is a crossing point for those in the know, the path for coyotes and migrants with patience, but it’s also far out of the city and a perfect location for assaults. In 2005, walking this same path, Julio César and his coyote were attacked by two masked men who acted as if they were back in La Arrocera: they stripped them both naked, looking for money even in the folds of their underwear. Further down the path we enter onto another ranch. We’re all very thirsty. But instead of finding a rest and some water, we see eight soldiers, all of them holding AR-15 assault rifles, watching us suspiciously from the ranch house. They approach and order us to identify ourselves. They ask for papers and search our bags. They know Julio César is undocumented, but in Mexico a soldier doesn’t have the right to detain a migrant. They also know we’re journalists. “Excuse us,” one of them says meekly. “We’re out looking for drugs. A lot pass through here.” As they let us go, the same soldier warns us: “Don’t go down by the river. That’s where people are getting mugged.”

Martinez, Oscar (2013-10-08). The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail (pp. 265-266). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.

We jump in. The water is cold. In the middle of the river there’s a small island, so we can take a short break. In the deepest part the water reaches up to our necks, making it difficult to move forward. It’s incredible that this is the famous Rio Grande, which has taken so many lives, and yet in crossing it we never lose our footing and, in the end, it only takes a few minutes.

Martinez, Oscar (2013-10-08). The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail (pp. 266-267). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.