It is my joy to publish another in Larry Trent’s stories of immigration activism which share some of the human and holy faces he meets in his ministry.
It was my last day in Mexico City before flying to Chiapas. I had already done all of the touristy things on my list for this trip. After my breakfast, I decided to revisit the cute little park outside of one the many churches of Cuidad de Mexico. I had been there several years before, after the earthquake, to discover that the church was all boarded up, leaning to the side and the tower was a pile of rubble. What I also discovered that day was the area around the church had become the temporary home to Central American migrants traveling through Mexico. I was able to spend a few minutes conversing with the migrants. So, you see I had an underlying reason to return to that place. Maybe there would be someone I could talk with!
I arrived at the little park to see a few folks with cups of coffee sitting on the benches and wall. There was a small upscale coffee shop at one corner of the park. But, of course, what caught my eye was the man asleep on the steps of the church. He was shirtless using his shirt to shield his face from the morning sun that was shining brightly on him. I wasn’t going to disturb him. I did take his photo from a distance. I sat for a while hoping he would wake up, but that didn’t happen.
There is a small historical house on the edge of that park. I had visited it on a previous trip, but I didn’t really have anything else to do. So, I went to the museum again. I figured either my sleeping friend would be awake or gone when I came out. Maybe he wasn’t a migrant after all. Although the overstuffed backpack and rolled up blanket supported the theory that he was.
When I came out of the museum 45 minutes later, I didn’t see him at first. He was around the corner of the building, somewhat shielded from others, changing his clothes. When he returned to the front of the church, he now had on sweatpants and a pair of flipflops. He was carrying a t-shirt. He saw me looking at him and smiled. So, I smiled back as I got up from my seat and walked over to him. We started to chat the usual small talk (in Spanish). “Good morning! How are you? I’m fine, you? Where are you from”?
That last question stopped me. He was from Chiapas which was where I was headed to the next morning. At that point we talked about Chiapas for a bit. Clearly, he loved his State of Chiapas. Then I asked what he was doing in DF. “I had planned to go to los Estados Unidos”, he said. He had ridden on top of “la Bestia,” the train, to get to Mexico City. “Muy peligrosa, very dangerous,” I said. Immediately he stood up and pulled his sweatpants down to his knees. There was a gash in his flesh from just above his knee almost to his hip. You could see where the stitches had been. It was oozing and clearly not fully healed. He said that he was jumping on the train as it was moving, lost his balance and the edge of the train wheel caught his leg. He was lucky that the terrible cut was all that happened.
After more chatting, I asked if he had eaten breakfast. “No”, he said. “I’ll buy you something at the coffee shop” I said. He picked out a cheese sandwich along with juice. I, of course, got coffee. We sat side by side sharing our “meal”. Out of the blue, he asked me, “como te llamas”? What is your name? “Soy Larry,” I responded. “Y tu?” “Mi nombre es Jesús,” he answered.
Wow! I met Jesus on the steps of the church and didn’t even recognize him. Just as had happened with the disciples, it was in the breaking of the bread, the sharing of a modest meal, that I came to recognize Jesus.