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Latino Daily News

Monday March 14, 2011

In the Face of Mexico’s Violence, These Women Offer Smiles and Help

As Mexico’s drug war rages on and international media display alarming and gruesome headlines of kidnappings and beheadings, two groups of women are doing news-worthy deeds, but with very little international recognition.

In the Mexican state of Veracruz, in a town called La Patrona, a group of do-gooders calling themselves Las Patronas are helping those on their journey for something better.

Everyday, dozens of people (usually men) traveling on cargo trains pass La Patrona. Unable to afford safer or more comfortable travel conditions, these men, often called moscas or “flies” pack onto the trains and head to El Norte for a better life.

As the men pass, often on their way out of El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and various other Central and South American countries in hopes of escaping poverty or gangs, Las Patronas quickly hand out food.

That’s right, as the trains pass, these women, who prepare at least 200 portions of food a day, hand out food to the starving men, providing just a bit of comfort as they travel aboard El Tren de la Muerte (The Train of Death). For most of them, this will be the only food they eat until they arrive at their destinations.

Las Patronas are not women with a lot of money. They are simply mothers, daughters, and wives, who for the last 15 years, have stood next to the railway and passed out food and drinks to those that pass by.

Bernarda Romero Vazquez, 46, said, “I help them because they are human beings, the same as us, and I don’t think that I have suffered like they have, and that’s why I think they need us.”

Keeping the good deeds going, a 10-women group of bikers, Las Guerreras de Juárez (The Warriors of Juárez) in Ciudad Juarez spend their Sundays helping the poverty stricken just looking for a assistance and a kind heart. During the week, these riders are businesswomen, teachers, and travel agents, but on the weekends, they hand out money, food, medicine, clothes, and anything else they can find to help those in need. Ciudad Juárez is just across the border from El Paso, Texas, and has seen around 7,000 deaths in just the last three years.

Las Guerreras came together two years ago after they heard about seven young people being killed while playing soccer at a park. They are not fighting the drug trafficking, they are fighting the effects of it; poverty, drug addiction, and even families left without fathers and mother.

The women ride pink motorcycles and say they do so to bring life and color to an otherwise gloomy situation. Shooters often ride motorcycles when they gun people down, and Las Guerreras’ pink bikes counter that.

“It is said that after the storm comes the calm. We hope so,” said co-founder Lorenia Granados. “We are trying to do something different and we hope that some day peace will come back to this city”.