Fabiola and Alondra Barbosa pray in front of a Virgin of Guadalupe nailed to a dirt shoulder.
The two sisters, 34 and 36 years old, have brought an image of the patron saint of Mexicans to remember the 51 migrants who were found dead this Tuesday in an abandoned trailer, without water and without air, on a lost highway on the outskirts of San Antony, Texas.
"We identify with them because we also came here to seek a better life," says the little sister.
A day later, the place of the tragedy is turning into an improvised altar of crosses and candles that is approached by residents of the area, just over two hours from the border.
Most of them are migrants too, like the Barbosa sisters, who arrived in the southern United States with a little more luck but who are well aware of the ordeal of crossing without papers.
In fact, two relatives of his managed to pass a month ago inside another trailer on a nearby highway.
"This has been a transit area for many years because the train runs through here," explains the older sister, pointing to the rails almost hidden in the bushes.
The train runs parallel to the road where the trailer appeared, a narrow, poorly paved track surrounded by brush and vacant lots.
Decades ago, before the construction of the freeway that the bypass leads to here, it was one of the main roads through Texas heading north.
Today it is an almost forgotten road.
On the shoulders where the Virgin of Guadalupe and the crosses are placed there are remains of garbage piled up and burned.
But the freight train does continue to operate on a route that enters Texas from the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo, one of the hot spots for drug mafias.
The San Antonio rail road is one of the many forks of La Bestia or El Devoramigrantes, the explicit nicknames of the train that comes up from the southern border of Mexico and was one of the main mafia routes a decade ago.
New modes of organized crime have included trailers.
On Mexican soil, cases of truck accidents have been common in recent years, revealing that the load they are carrying is dozens of overcrowded migrants.
Not so much on US soil.
Although already in 2003, another 19 people died inside a trailer in Victoria, another Texas city on the Gulf coast.
Tuesday's is for now the biggest tragedy.
When the police opened the doors of the trailer, 87 migrants were found, according to preliminary figures, piled in the guts of the truck.
Most Mexicans and Central Americans.
The 16 survivors are being treated at nearby hospitals.
Police have already arrested three suspects.
His specific involvement in the events is not yet known or why the truck was abandoned in this lost area.
“It got worse”
The life closest to the road is an industrial estate with workshops specializing in truck parts.
Leonardo Rocamontes is 74 years old and has been in charge of one of the workshops for more than 50 years.
Sitting in his office, among nuts the size of an apple and other greasy irons, he explains the different stages of the phenomenon: “When I arrived, all this was a quiet forest.
But in recent years a lot of bad things have happened here.”
The abandonment of the highway, without light or hardly paved, attracted prostitution, another of the businesses controlled by organized crime.
His grandson found the body of a woman in the bushes more than 10 years ago.
It was the time when the bloodthirsty Zetas dominated from the Mexican border states of Coahuila and Tamaulipas the flows of migrants along the east coast aboard La Bestia.
"They got off here because the train goes slower, almost at a turn, because there is a crossroads ahead," recalls Leonardo.
Exhausted bodies appeared in his workshop asking to use a phone.
Sometimes cars came to pick them up and, depending on the mechanical boss, they were taken to Houston or, further afield, to New Carolina to work on ranches.
For a few years the flow decreased but in recent months it has happened again.
“It got worse.
Before you didn't look at it so much because they were smaller quantities.
Now, since it is more difficult to cross, more people gather and it is more noticeable, ”she explains in the Spanish that his grandparents, Mexicans from Coahuila, taught her.
Two weeks ago a group of more than 10 arrived. They asked if they could sleep in one of his trucks.
And at night they washed with the hose from the workshop.
"They left very grateful."
The numbers agree with the testimonies of the head of the Texan workshop.
May broke records for undocumented immigrants entering the country with more than 239,000.
And Texas, with its more than 1,000 kilometers of border with Mexico, almost half of the total border territory, is one of the hot spots.
The governments of Joe Biden and Andrés Manuel López Obrador have been negotiating a common agenda for months to tackle the problem.
Migration is also a major concern for the Democratic Party, which faces the parliamentary elections in November under siege from the Republican side, which uses the growth of the migratory phenomenon as a hammer to feed its most conservative voters.
The Republican Governor of Texas, Gregg Abbott, who two months ago caused a collapse at the border with extraordinary controls on trucks coming from Mexico, has said: "These dead are Biden's."
In addition to saying prayers to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Barbosa sisters also have a message for politicians who stir up the ghost of fear of migrants.
The youngest works in a taqueria and the oldest cleaning houses.
“Those are the jobs for us when we don't have papers.
Those that nobody wants to do and for those that also pay us less for being illegal”, explains the eldest, who gives another example.
Her two brothers-in-law, who entered a month ago hidden in another truck, are now working as masons "paid daily, in black and without insurance."
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