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Mexico: a touch of humanity in the face of adversity

16-06-2011 Feature

Like the thousands of migrants who pass through Mexico every year, Julio César, from El Salvador, was trying to reach the border with the United States, when an accident prevented him from going any further.

On 30 April, Julio César tried to jump onto a train as it passed the town of Lechería, in Mexico state, but it was moving at such a speed that he slipped and fell.

"I didn't manage to get on board – I lost my footing and fell off,” recalls Julio. “I went into shock so didn't realise I was injured."

The Mexican Red Cross branch in Cuautitlán de Romero Rubio sent an ambulance to the scene. There, paramedics gave him emergency treatment before rushing him to the central hospital of the Mexican Red Cross, in the Federal District.

The train had run over Julio's right leg; doctors had to amputate it from just below the knee. He was in hospital for 15 days.

Once discharged, Julio asked to be taken to “Hogar de la Misericordia,” a shelter for migrants in the city of Arriaga, Chiapas. The ICRC delegation in Mexico coordinated with the Embassy of El Salvador to make this possible. Julio had previously met the man who ran the shelter, Father Heymar Váquez, who he says filled him with confidence and a spiritual peace.

ICRC delegates took Julio to Arriaga, accompanied by Raúl Bernal, an experienced volunteer of the Mexican Red Cross. They also offered to take him to Tapachula, where a programme was in place to help migrants who had lost a limb in similar circumstances.

"The aim of the programme is to help alleviate the migrants’ suffering,” explains Karl Mattli, head of the ICRC delegation in Mexico. “They are fitted with artificial limbs, provided with physical rehabilitation and then reintegrated into work with dignity.”

Father Heymar offered to take Julio in while he underwent the treatment and physical assessments required before a limb-fitting. The ICRC will provide him with transport to Tapachula and back, and with anything else that he might need, until he has received his artificial limb and has learnt to walk with it.

“I want to recover, get a new leg and start to walk again soon,” says Julio. “I want to look for work and take care of myself – I don't want to be a burden.”

For now, he must wait for his amputation scars to heal fully before he can receive an artificial leg. He has a long and difficult road ahead: the rehabilitation exercises he will have to do can be exhausting. But the hope of being able to walk again and returning to work spurs him on as he begins this new journey.



Julio César is treated at the Mexican Red Cross hospital after his train accident.


The ICRC and Mexican Red Cross coordinate Julio's transfer to Arriaga, Chiapas.