MEXICO CITY – A Mexican artist’s large sculpture in the shape of a coyote (a word that in the Aztec nation also is slang for people smuggler) provides United States-bound migrants with water, a map of their intended route, a list of shelters and even medicine.
And it does so with no strings attached.
“This is a coyote that’s there to give, not take away. It’s a way to extend a hand to a migrant who gets off the train confused, who doesn’t know where to go,” Alfredo “Libre” Gutierrez, a native of the northwestern border city of Tijuana, said in a telephone interview with EFE.
Gutierrez has been making drawings of coyotes in several areas of the country as a show of solidarity with undocumented migrants, but he came up with the idea for the sculpture a year ago when he began working with these people at a shelter in Tacubaya, southwest of downtown Mexico City.
The sculpture, located at the Lecheria station in the central state of Mexico, is made of recycled wood, stands 2.6 meters (8.5 feet) tall, contains a map of Mexico on its left side and a list of the 85 migrant shelters in 21 Mexican states with their addresses and telephone numbers on its right side.
The goal of this work of art, which costs between 60,000-70,000 pesos (between $3,218-$3,755), depending on transportation costs, is to let migrants know that they are not alone and that someone is concerned about their plight.
“I’ve been able to hear migrants’ stories over the past few months. Many of them don’t know which states they have to cross to get to the United States, and that’s why I decided to put the map of Mexico on the coyote and a list of 85 shelters to facilitate their journey,” Gutierrez said.
The coyote’s tail also offers a space for people to leave water or medicine.
The artist said he planned to make several of the sculptures and place them near stations where a northbound cargo train known as “La Bestia” (The Beast) stops. The idea is for them to serve as a link between local residents and the mostly Central American migrants crossing Mexico from south to north aboard the train.
Undocumented Central American migrants who undertake the hazardous journey across Mexico in hopes of reaching the US are vulnerable to exploitation by people traffickers.
They also are often preyed upon by corrupt Mexican officials and by gangs who kidnap them or try to recruit them into their ranks or target them in extortion schemes.