For Two Men Who Helped Migrants In Mexico, A Brutal Death
This is the story of the murder of two aid workers in Mexico. The men fed Central American migrants traveling north through Mexico on a freight train that stopped near their home.
They were critical of both the corrupt police who abused and extorted the migrants as well as the organized crime gangs that kidnapped and robbed them.
There were no witnesses to the double homicide and police won't comment about the case. Their murder didn't even get a mention in the local press.
I met the men on several occasions this summer while reporting on the surge of Central Americans, especially unaccompanied minors, who were making the long journey.
It wasn't hard to find the two men: They were never far from the train tracks.
'We Are All Human Beings'
Last June, I walked the rock-filled tracks with Adrian Rodriguez Garcia. It's quite a hike from his house to where migrants gather and wait for his meals.
Everyone called him La Polla. He was the "mother hen" to thousands of migrants, mostly from Central America, who knew when they got off the train in central Mexico, near the town of Huehuetoca, La Polla would be there with hot coffee and sweet bread in the morning, or a hot meal in the afternoon — rain or shine.
"I like helping people," he told me.
He said he started feeding the migrants here about 10 years ago.
"I see how they suffer, how destroyed their feet are from walking such long distances, how they are always targeted by corrupt cops of crime gangs," he said.
He just wanted to make this small leg of their journey a little lighter.
After all, Adrian said, "We are all human beings, the only thing different about us is that we come from different countries."
Adrian dyed his long hair a light red color and pulled it back with a bright head band. He liked to paint his nails and wear sparkling rings. He told me he was a transvestite, and maybe that's why he related so much to the cast-aside migrants; he, too, felt on the outside.
Two years ago, one Honduran jumped the train at Huehuetoca and decided to stay. His name is Wilson Castro.
"I'm also a migrant," said Wilson. "I know how much they suffer along the trip north, some die falling off the train or lose limbs, I've seen it all," he said.
Wilson was the quieter side to Adrian's flamboyance, but equally committed.
Handouts And Hard Work
The two didn't have a lot to hand out. One day when I was out at the tracks with them, Adrian lined up a group of about 20 migrants and passed out hot tortillas, beans, a slice of cheese and a few jokes. He had an easy loud laugh.
But clearly there was a serious side to the work.
For one story I was working on about abuse in Mexico's migrant detention facilities, Wilson told me about being held for two months in an overcrowded cell, where gang members robbed and extorted the migrants.
Earlier this year, both men thwarted a kidnapping attempt of migrants at the train tracks. Wilson held one of the suspected kidnappers while Adrian called the police. Both gave statements to the authorities, both received death threats, and according to human rights workers, both had been promised police protection. None was provided, says Jorge Andrade, a human rights worker.
Last Sunday, after they handed out the evening meal, Andrade says the two drove back to their house. They were sitting in the car talking when Adrian's family heard the shots. Adrian died instantly from a shot to the head and heart. Wilson died a day later. Police are not commenting.
At a press conference Wednesday, aid worker Andrea Gonzalez, said authorities had long been aware of the criminal gangs operating in the region and the threats to the men, yet did nothing.
"We can no longer permit this type of violence and impunity to permeate our society"," she said.
Wilson's body is being sent home to his family in Honduras. Adrian was buried Tuesday in the small cemetery in town not far from his house — not far from the train tracks.