La Bestia: A Perilous Journey for Migrants: Background information when reading We Are Not from Here

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

We Are Not from Here

by Jenny Torres Sanchez

We Are Not from Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez X
We Are Not from Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2020, 368 pages
    May 2021, 336 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
Buy This Book

About this Book

La Bestia: A Perilous Journey for Migrants

This article relates to We Are Not from Here

Print Review

Migrants riding atop La Bestia in VeracruzIn Jenny Torres Sanchez's young adult novel We Are Not from Here, three Guatemalan teenagers embark on a dangerous journey to the United States, part of which takes place on top of La Bestia (The Beast). This is the commonly used name for the train that spans the length of Mexico frequently boarded by migrants seeking to bypass immigration checkpoints en route to the U.S. Its other common name is perhaps less lyrical but more descriptive: El tren de la muerta, the train of death. In the novel, the characters switch from train to train, revealing that there is no single La Bestia; this is a beast made of many parts.

Migrants have been riding La Bestia for decades, though the popularity of this method of travel waned considerably in 2014 and for a few years after, as Mexican authorities began raiding the trains and detaining migrants. However, ridership surged in recent years; Mexican immigration agents detained 43,258 migrants from April to May of 2019. It's estimated that up to half a million Central American migrants ride the train every year.

One of the characters in We Are Not From Here, Pequeña, disguises herself as a boy for the journey, and with good reason. A social worker reports that 80 percent of the women who ride La Bestia are raped at some point along the way. Death is never far from El tren de la muerte: it is estimated that over 120,000 travelers have disappeared or died on the journey since 2006, many killed under the wheels of the train as they run alongside to hop aboard. Many more have lost limbs or suffered other catastrophic injuries. In 2011, the Red Cross opened a facility at a midpoint on the train route in order to attend to the wounded. They reported treating five to eight individuals requiring amputations each month in 2018.

La Bestia has been immortalized in music by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In an effort to discourage migrants from risking their lives on the train, they produced the song "La Bestia," describing in detail its dangers ("Migrants go as cattle/ To the slaughterhouse/ Taking hell's route/ Within a cloud of pain.") It's got a catchy tune, and is sung by popular jingle artist Eddie Ganz. It flooded the airwaves in Central America five years ago, but has apparently not served to deter migrants.

For readers who wish to see what the journey on La Bestia is like, there is a documentary called Mexico: La Bestia available on YouTube. It was produced by Arte, a French/German company, and features German narration with English subtitles.

Photograph of La Bestia in Veracruz by Alberto Bautista

Filed under Society and Politics

This "beyond the book article" relates to We Are Not from Here. It originally ran in July 2020 and has been updated for the May 2021 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Seek You
    Seek You
    by Kristen Radtke
    In the first pages of Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness, Kristen Radtke's sophomore ...
  • Book Jacket: The Man Who Hated Women
    The Man Who Hated Women
    by Amy Sohn
    If debates over women's reproductive health seem stuck in an earlier era — the fact that birth...
  • Book Jacket: The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
    The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
    by Honorée Fannone Jeffers
    Honorée Fannone Jeffers' The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois explores the Black experience in ...
  • Book Jacket: Beautiful World, Where Are You
    Beautiful World, Where Are You
    by Sally Rooney
    Beautiful World, Where Are You centers around four key characters, the most prominent of which are ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
In Every Mirror She's Black
by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom
An arresting debut for anyone looking for insight into what it means to be a Black woman in the world.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Million Things
    by Emily Spurr

    "An impressively assured debut. A gem of a novel."
    —Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project

  • Book Jacket

    The Last Chance Library
    by Freya Sampson

    Fans of libraries and heartfelt, humorous fiction won't want to miss this one!

Win This Book!
Win A Most Clever Girl

A Most Clever Girl by Stephanie Marie Thornton

A thrilling novel of love and espionage, based on the incredible true story of a Cold War double agent.



Solve this clue:

Run T G

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.