The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Forced Criminal Activities along Mexico's Eastern Migration Routes and Central America Department of Public Affairs and Security Studies


Migrants arrive to Puebla by a train that departs from Orizaba, Veracruz. A support network consisting of migrant advocates from Puebla and Tlaxcala, including universities, civil association and the church, helped built Puebla’s migrant shelter. Experts on migration told us that the number of migrants using Puebla’s shelter has decreased. Migrants believe that the shelter is working in collusion with criminal networks operating begging rings in the city, and thus are actively avoiding the shelter. Migration activists try to reach out to migrants near train tracks, but railroad private security personnel have been hostile to them.  

An expert we interviewed in Puebla asserted that organized crime is present in the state. According to him, the Zetas are located in eastern Puebla, the Sinaloa Cartel to the west, near the state border with Morelos, and the Knights Templar and La Familia Michoacana operate in and around San Martin. He mentioned that the migration route used by Central Americans runs parallel to smuggling, drug and organ trafficking routes.

Experts in Puebla affirmed that human trafficking takes place in the state. Moreover, they stated that the Zetas were behind it. Some of them alleged that the Zetas coerce locals and migrants to perform criminal activities for them, especially drug trafficking. Others believe that young people are voluntarily choosing to stay in Mexico to work as lookouts for cartels. Organized crime in Puebla demand payment from coyotes in order to let them transit through territory they claim. One interviewee claimed that organ trafficking is taking place in the state. He said that criminal groups demand coyotes to surrender at least one migrant to them in order to transit through cartel-controlled territory. He stated that cartels harvest the organs of kidnapped migrants. This claim has not been corroborated.

In Puebla City, a criminal network operates near the train stations where migrants arrive. They offer jobs to attractive female migrants. Migrant women who start working as prostitutes tend to stay in the state. Most of the women arriving in Puebla are Honduran. Women from El Salvador often have relatives in the United States that send them money, making it easier for them to keep moving north. There are not many Guatemalan women in Puebla. Guatemalan migrants usually settle in southern Mexico instead of moving north.