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12/8/2016

Las Patronas

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Doña Leonilda Vázquez. She, her daughter and other 13 women founded the group known as Las Patronas in 1995. Their mission is to provide free food for undocumented migrants crossing Mexico between the Tierra Blanca and Córdoba train stations.

Migrants hopping aboard the moving cargo trains face many dangers along the way. From amputation or death if they fall or are pushed from the train, to kidnapping, rape and extortion at the hands of the gangs and organised crime groups that control the routes.

La Patrona Mexico.But in the Mexican state of Veracruz, a small group of women have dedicated themselves to feed the migrants as the trains pass through their small town of La Patrona. Driven only by kindness, the small group now known as “Las Patronas” is made of about 14 wives and mothers that spend each day of the week cooking for migrants.

Coordinated by the founder Norma Romero Vázquez, they prepare hundreds of bags of rice, beans and tortillas

“(…) more people will become aware, join forces and show support to the needy, the vulnerable, the brother migrants, the elderly, the sick, the prisoners, the unemployed and the destitute. When they cross our path let’s not be indifferent and overlook them, oblivious to the cause of their problems. Let us take the time to listen to them, respect them, love them and help to find a solution to such a problem. We are human beings and we should not remain indifferent.” (Traduction NADJA)

The reward for their selfless and hard work? The gratitude and blessings from migrants they may never see again.

Julia Ramírez has been a volunteer with the group for 17 years. She is in charge of cooking every Tuesday, and fulfills other duties during the rest of the week. She works every day, even on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Ramírez lives near the train tracks, and remembers one Sunday when “La Bestia” stopped its march. A 16-year-old boy came knocking on her door asking for food. The first thing that came to her mind was her son, who was of a similar age at that time. “It really moved me to tears,” she recalls. She took the boy in and fed him tortillas, beans, and eggs—a fast meal before the train continued with its journey again. “Thank you mother. God bless you,” the immigrant said.

Before leaving, the young man asked for her blessing. “May God bless you and the Virgin Mother be always with you on your journey,” she told him. That same day, she went and joined Las Patronas.

La Patrona, a community in Amatlán de los Reyes, in the center of the Veracruz state. Bernanda is one of the 14 women who are part of a group that is known around the world as “Las Patronas,” an organization that for the last 20 years has been feeding Central Americans immigrants who travel on top of a freight train known as “La Bestia” that’s bound for the United States. These men, women, and children travel out of necessity due to the tremendous violence and economic crises that grip much of Central America. The meals provided to them by Las Patronas are the first they will have for days, or even weeks. Nobody knows when will they eat again. The lunches are made out of beans, rice, bread, tortillas, and tuna, or sometimes, boiled eggs, vegetables, or fruit. Sometimes a local bakery will donate a pie, but that doesn’t happen very often. Las Patronas’ 20 years of experience is reflected on a board that hangs in the kitchen. Each day of the week, one of them is in charge of preparing at least 100 lunches. (In earlier times, they had to prepare 800 a day.) Others will be in charge of packaging the food, or washing plastic bottles and filling them with water to later tie up in pairs (to make the delivery easier). They also pick up bread donations at different supermarkets and produce from a market in Cordoba.

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