National Geographic : 1998 Oct
fences, slipping through the shadows, trying to evade the cops, hiding out in slums, ignorant of the language, dressed in clothes they've worn while lying in alfalfa fields. But at home, they're heroes. ONE SATURDAY IN MARCH I took a green Volkswagen taxi out of downtown Mexico City to an area northwest of town, where dense waves of small concrete-block homes wash up into the hills, the edge of that city's rising tide of humanity. There, in a small room painted a sunny yellow, in which a patched aquarium gurgled on top of a refrigerator, I talked with Alejandro's family. "When you have a son," his wife, Lourdes, said, "you don't think of yourself. You have to make sacrifices. To tell the truth, he knew it was going to be difficult." Around the table were Alejandro's mother, a brother-in-law, and his younger brother, Cesar, who recently tried five times to cross to the other side and got caught each time. He's going to try again. "It's like a little worm inside," he said. "To go to the other side." The family had heard from Alejandro. He'd called from California. After three or four attempts he had made it to the other side and was living with a few others who had crossed with him somewhere near San Diego. They didn't know how he was living, but I suspected it was in one of several infamously tough On the move again, Congolese refugees grab their baggage before boarding a ferry to go home. Repatriation from Tanzania is a choice for these refugees, whose decision-to go or stay put-is influenced by radio broadcasts and the rumor mill.