Enrique is hungry, but he fears that the half-dozen rolls from the food throwers might be all there is to his good fortune, so he stashes them for later.

In little more than an hour, the train nears a town: Cordoba.


The cargo is beginning to change. It is valuable and more easily damaged--Volkswagens, Fords and Chryslers. Security guards check the freight cars, catch every rider they can and hand them over to authorities. More important, says Cuauhtemoc Gonzalez Flores, an official of the Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana railroad, if a migrant falls and is injured or killed, it costs $8 a minute to stop the train, often for hours, until investigators arrive.

A sewage stream appears by the tracks. Cordoba is getting close. The immigrants finish their water, because it is hard to run fast holding bottles. They tie sweaters or extra shirts around their waists. Enrique grabs his bag of bread. About 10 p.m., he smells a familiar cue: a coffee-roasting factory next to the red brick station. As the train slows, he leaps and flees.

He sits on a sidewalk one block north of the station. Two police officers approach.

His odds are better if he does not bolt. He tucks his bread into a crevice. He swallows his fright and tries to look unconcerned.

The officers, in navy blue uniforms, walk straight up to him.

He does not move, even flinch. Cops can sense fear. They can tell if someone is illegal. You have to be calm, he says to himself. You can't look afraid or hide. You have to look right at them.

Unlike food throwers, the police do not bear gifts. They pull out pistols.

"If you run, I'll shoot you," one says, aiming at Enrique's chest.

They take him and two younger boys, sitting nearby, to a cavernous railroad shed, where seven other officers are holding 20 migrants.

It is a full-scale sweep.

They line up the immigrants against a wall. "Take everything out of your pockets."

Only a bribe, Enrique knows, will keep him from being deported back to Central America. He has 30 pesos, about $3, that he earned lifting rocks and sweeping near the tracks in Tierra Blanca. He prays it will be enough.

One officer pats him down and says to empty his pockets.

Enrique drops his belt, a Raiders cap and the 30 pesos. He glances at his fellow migrants. Each is standing behind a little pile of belongings.


¡Salganse! ¡Vayanse, ya!

Get out! Leave!"

He will not be deported. But he pauses. He screws up his courage. "Can I get my things back, my money?"

"What money?" the officer replies. "Forget about it, unless you want to have your trip stop here."

Enrique turns his back and walks away.

Even in Veracruz, where strangers can be so kind, the authorities cannot be trusted. The chief of state police in nearby Fortin de las Flores will not comment on the incident.

Exhausted, Enrique retrieves his bag of bread, climbs onto a flatbed truck and sleeps. At dawn, he hears a train. He trots alongside a freight car and clambers aboard, holding his bread.

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