Qualifying for the World Cup in CONCACAF comes with difficult road matches. Today, Mexico is preparing for one against an El Salvador team that still has hope of advancing to the final round. Mexico has little to play for other than pride. El Tri already advanced and won the group. And though you expect some ragging from both sides, one Mexican newspaper took things to an ugly level. The cover of Tiempo Real features Salvadoran futbolista Dustin Corea on a train. The caption “Mandelos a La Bestia” featured in blue and white letters below Corea to match the team’s uniforms.
On top of featuring Corea – a 24-year-old athlete born in the United States – the paper invokes the train known as el tren de la muerte to make a tasteless joke. People in Central America – and Mexico for that matter – know boarding this cargo train anywhere from Chiapas, Mexico to the United States could mean certain death. And yet, Central Americans continue risking their lives and bodies for a chance at the American Dream.
A 2014 Migration Policy Institute article estimated that as many as half a million Central American hop onto the moving train every year. The people most likely to go through with this dangerous journey are likely the poorest. Gang tariffs, bribes, and other costs are still cheaper than paying a smuggler. Atop the train, immigrants have nothing to hold on to. Falling asleep and falling off the train is a very real possibility. The train’s claimed the lives of hundreds – perhaps thousands – of people. And this isn’t even touching on the fact that robberies, rape, and kidnapping are very real possibilities.
Daniel Alvarenga, editor of the Salva Cultura blog writes, “Not too long after Trump and the Mexican president came together to discuss new ways to exclude and brutalize Central Americans fleeing violence. A Mexican publication puts ‘Send [Salvadorans] to la Bestia [death trains]’ in response to a fútbol match between El Salvador and Mexico. I’m tired of waking up to xenophobic violence from Mexico, whether it’s news of another Central American dead in their country or crap like this. This is not a ‘go back where you came from’ comment. This is a death wish. We’re tired.”
When Tiempo Real‘s editor Omar Barona OK’ed this cover, he probably didn’t take into account that in 2015, Mexico deported 165,000 Central Americans – a number that’s more than double the 75,000 Central Americans expelled by the US. Following the backlash, Barona released a statement on Tiempo Real, where he refused to apologize for the cover. “Do I regret it? No. It’s an editorial decision that wasn’t executed at the right moment,” he wrote. “At another time, under other circumstances, it’d likely be considered ‘picardía mexicana.'”
Though there’s those who agree with him, for plenty of others, it’s an insensitive affront. Check out a bit of the conversation on Twitter below: