For Central American migrants traveling through Mexico, Catholic-run shelters offer safe haven on an increasingly dangerous journey. Most migrants pass through briefly. But for the more vulnerable ones – women, children and the injured – a shelter can become a temporary home. Maria Ines Zamudio takes us into one such shelter.

Cover photo is of a mural at La 72 Shelter that has plenty of symbolism. The bodies are a remembrance of migrants who died on their journey, while the black vine with thorns connotes danger. The blue and white birds are decorated with symbols from the flags of different Central American countries. The mural hangs on the front wall of the shelter’s infirmary. 





Jacinta is a migrant who left her abusive husband and two kids back in Honduras. She’s holding a letter from her daughter, who writes that she loves Jacinta with all her soul.


At La 72 Shelter, men and women stay in separate areas. Here, the women are hanging out just outside their quarters.


The freight train north, La Bestia, hadn’t come through in five days, trying the patience of migrants who wanted to keep moving. When it finally comes, there’s a mass exodus out of the shelter. Local people hand the travelers bottles of water and bags of snacks for the journey.



This is a close-up detail of a map on one of the shelter’s walls. The house shows the location of shelters along the way. The red dot shows a danger zone, including cartel activity. The gun symbolizes a place where assaults and kidnappings have occurred. And the green bill warns migrants where they may have to pay bribes for safe passage. 


Laundry hangs on lines at the back of the women’s quarters.

Their reporting was made possible by a fellowship with the International Center for Journalists, sponsored by the Ford Foundation.

Photos by Carlton Purvis

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