Inspired by Faith, the Poor Rush Forth to Offer Food

Inspired by Faith, the Poor Rush Forth to Offer Food

rom the top of his rolling freight car, Enrique sees a figure of Christ.

In the fields of Veracruz state, among farmers and their donkeys piled with sugar cane, rises a mountain. It towers over the train he is riding. At the summit stands a statue of Jesus. It is 60 feet tall, dressed in white, with a pink tunic.


The statue stretches out both arms. They reach toward Enrique and his fellow wayfarers on top of their rolling freight cars.

Some stare silently. Others whisper a prayer.


Enrique's Journey--Chapter 4 of the six-part series, published Friday in Section A, described Teotihuacan in Mexico as an Aztec metropolis. The Aztecs adopted the site as a ceremonial ground and gave it its modern name, but it originated and peaked as a metropolis during the pre-Aztec period.

It is early April 2000, and they have made it nearly a third of the way up the length of Mexico, a handful of immigrants, riding on boxcars, tank cars and hoppers. Enrique is 17. He is one of an estimated 48,000 Central American and Mexican children who go to the United States alone every year. Many are searching for their mothers, who have left for

El Norte

to find work and never come back.

Many credit religious faith for their progress. They pray on top of the train cars. At stops, they kneel along the tracks, asking God for help and guidance. They ask him to keep them alive until they reach

El Norte

. They ask him to protect them against bandits, who rob and beat them; police, who shake them down; and

la migra

, the Mexican immigration authorities, who deport them.

Many carry small Bibles, wrapped in plastic bags to keep them dry. On the pages, in the margins, they scrawl the names and addresses of the people who help them. The police often check the bindings for money to steal, the migrants say, but usually hand the Bibles back.

Some pages are particularly worn. The one that offers the 23rd Psalm, for instance: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."

Or the 91st Psalm: "There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."

Some migrants rely on a special prayer, "La Oracion a las Tres Divinas Personas"--a prayer to the Holy Trinity. It has seven sentences--short enough to recite in a moment of danger. If they rush the words, God will not mind.

That night, Enrique climbs to the top of a boxcar. In the starlight, he sees a man on his knees, bending over his Bible, praying.

Enrique climbs back down.

He does not turn to God for help. With all the sins he has committed, he thinks he has no right to ask God for anything.

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