By Jerry Kammer on February 11, 2009

In border terminology a "coyote" is the shadowy figure who guides illegal immigrants, usually for a hefty price, past immigration authorities and into the United States. Now a documentary film by that name, by Spanish filmmaker Chema Rodriguez, has been presented at the Berlin Film Festival.

The Mexican newspaper La Jornada today reports that the film tells the story of Maco, a bricklayer who takes Central Americans to the United States. He says that in the world portrayed by Rodriguez, "the Mexican border police and guards have to meet a quota of Central American migrants to be detained and expelled back to their homelands. But after that they collect bribes, and everyone knows it. The rest is a mascarade."

Maco introduced Rodriguez to 25 people who were waiting to make the long journey northward. Rodriguez then selected three who did well in front of a camera, and the project began. Rodriguez called the route from Guatemala through Mexico "one of the most dangerous scenes in the world."

In borderlands lore, coyotes are known as tough customers, who often abuse and even abandon their customers. But Maco remains loyal to his clients. "I have never abandoned my people," he says in the film. In the film, Maco gives his clients lessons in speaking like a Mexican, as well as instruction in Mexican history and geography. It's all an effort to help them present themselves as Mexicans and so avoid detention. He even teaches them the Mexican national anthem.