I was with the Central American caravan, documenting it as it made its way through Mexico toward the U.S. border. One night in Mexico City, I gave my phone to Hugo Martinez so he could call his dad back home. Martinez, who’d left Tegucigalpa, Honduras, couldn’t get through, so he recorded a voice memo in which he apologized for not saying goodbye to his father before heading north with his 20-something son. When he gave my phone back, we both stared at the floor for a long time. 

Martinez is one of the 8,000 migrants who left their home countries in the largest convoy ever to travel the migrant corridor. It is easy to reduce their stories into categories: the teenager fleeing compulsory gang service, the mother seeking better opportunities for her children, the orphan. But they are much more than those stereotypes. They are escaping realities we can’t even imagine. I was interested in the people they’d left behind — and their links to home — because they represent the gaps between what we think are their concerns and what really robs them of their sleep. Many migrants hoped, with their departure, to improve the lives of their loved ones back home. 

When the travelers arrived in Tijuana, I began lending my cellphone so they could contact people in their home countries. With their consent, we recorded phone calls and voice mails. We sent WhatsApp voice notes and used Facebook Messenger while I took photos with my medium-format camera. The results, edited excerpts of which are printed here, were beautiful shared moments, testimonies to hard times and reflections of uncertainty.

A version of this report will appear in the Sunday Outlook section. 

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