Janela Ordoñez, 25, from Colon, Honduras. To her sister in Honduras. Nov 21. Facebook voice note: Hi, Juli. I’m Jane, your sister. I send you my regards from … (laughs) … from Tijuana. And we want to tell you that we love you so much, all of us, your family. Thank God we met a friend, and he offered us to message you. Send my regards to all the family and friends. Tell everyone who asks for us that we love them so much, and if God allows it we will achieve our goal, and well. … We will keep in touch further along because we don’t have a way to communicate. Take care of yourself, and God bless you forever, today, tomorrow and always. Do not forget that we love you. (Luis Antonio Rojas) Cristian Javier Quezada, 17, from San Juan, Honduras. To his brother in Honduras.
Nov 17. Facebook voice note: Chavi, I’m here in Tijuana. Send me my mommy’s number so that I can call her. I got a phone, but it was stolen out there, in Tierra Blanca. Tell my mommy that I’m in Tijuana, in the border of the United States. Send me her phone number so I can call her. (Luis Antonio Rojas)
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.
Diego Tercero, 17, from Nacaome, Honduras. To his church pastor in Honduras. Nov 21. Phone call excerpt: Hello? Congratulations. A little bit bad … You know that I’ve never been outside … I know God’s with me, but it’s not the same, it’s not the same … Same, same … you know that we’re always together in our birthday. Same, same. Take care of yourself. I love you very much, I give you my heart, you know it. We’re both celebrating our birthdays. I carry you in my heart, whatever happens, I carry you in my heart. Always together, always together, you know it. But anyways … That’s the way it is, you understand me? Each one’s destiny. Same, same, same, same. Take care of yourself. God bless you. (Luis Antonio Rojas) Cintia Dominguez, 23, from Nacaome, Honduras. To her sister in the United States. Nov 22. WhatsApp voice note: Hi Carla, it’s me, Cintia. I’m here in Tijuana, at the border of … I’m at the wall already. How’s it called? What I wanted to say to is … can you send me at least 20 dollars?
If you could see … we are stuck here. We have nothing to eat. Damn, I’m suffering. Someone send money to Rudis, I don’t know who. You haven’t sent me anything, right? Send me at least twenty dollars, Carla. I’ll appreciate it so much. Don’t worry, if I cross to the other side, I’ll to help you too. (Luis Antonio Rojas) Kimberly Yorleni, 23, from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. To her sister and her mom in Honduras.
Nov 30. Phone call excerpt: Hello? What’s up, mother? Here listening to you. Yesterday I called you, and you didn’t answer. Yes, mother, and you didn’t answer. Yes, mother. Everything’s fine. Here, in the shelter.
We leave on Wednesday, to the other side. Yes. How did it go? Fifteen days until they arrive? Don’t despair, old lady. Yes I’m fine, don’t despair. Little by little. Fighting but … little by little. No mommy, I’m moving forward. We are going with the “gringo,” the “gringo” is going to take us. We leave on Wednesday. We’re alone in here. We’re alone, I tell you. We’re with the caravan. And the kids? What are they doing? Those cute boys. Ah! You have it? What number? What number do you use for WhatsApp? Give it to me … Hey what’s up? Everything cool. And the kids? Nothing in here. We leave on Wednesday to see what’s up. Mireya? Iris? Why don’t they answer? No, I’m fine don’t worry. No, I’m leaving, nobody can stop me. Yes, take care of my kids. Enroll Astrid. Enroll Astrid. What’s up, love? Pass me to mommy because I don’t have a lot of credit. (Luis Antonio Rojas) Michel Galdamez, 12, from Ocotepeque, Honduras. To her grandmother in Honduras.
Nov. 12. WhatsApp voice note: Hi, grandma. How are you? I hope you’re in good health. Say hello to my aunt Isamar, my uncle Kevito, my uncle Adenai. Tell everyone in the family that I love them so much and that I miss them. And you too, grandma. I hope that you’re in good health, did you hear me? We are doing fine, thank God. The whole family is here. My aunt Yami, Chepe, my uncle Chonte, my mommy, my uncle Nelson. Even little Juan is here. (Luis Antonio Rojas)
José María Avelar, 45, from Ocotepeque, Honduras. To his wife in Honduras. Nov 23. WhatsApp voice note: Check this out … I was calling you to let you know that we haven’t been able to get out of here because things are very serious. Do you understand me? Yesterday I was able to communicate with you, but I don’t know what happened with that phone but. … What I want to tell you the most is. … Always, I warn you. … Take care of my daughters. As much as you can. Take care of yourself, too. You will receive any answer at any time. Do you understand me? I was able to communicate with my brother, I will probably let you know if he helps me or not.
Something else too … The little coffee grains up there. I offered some containers to your friend René as payment. Also the corn grains up there. I even left cut soybean grain in the middle of the ranch. And because I didn’t water them, maybe they are already ruined. The beans … Look for my nephew so he helps you to pick them up. Even if it’s just enough so that you can survive there. Because I can’t send you anything even if I want to. I just wish you a good afternoon. Take care of my daughters, you understand? I love you very much. Okay. (Luis Antonio Rojas)
Maynor Melendez, 16, from Tela, Honduras. To his mother in Honduras. Nov 19. Facebook voice note: Hi, mommy. How are you mom? I’m fine in here. And how are you? My Facebook got blocked, I don’t know how. I don’t know my password. I’m talking from the cellphone of a friend who’s a journalist. And how are you, mom? What good news do you have for me, mom? What are you doing, mom? I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to message you, mom. I’m in Tijuana, mom. I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to message you, mom. I know that you’ve been thinking about me, mom. I’m fine, I’m with friends, mom. I love you so much, you know it, mom. I love you so much, so much, mom. And how are my brothers? (Luis Antonio Rojas) Eusebio Diaz, 29, from San Pedro Sula, Honduras. To his wife in Honduras.
Nov 20. WhatsApp voice note: Well, Jenny, I’m calling you to tell you that I’m doing fine. It’s Chevo. I wanted to tell you that we are on our way to Tijuana. And well, thank God we’re doing fine. We wish to make it to Tijuana alive. Take care. I love you so much, and I’ll always be there, looking after you. Keep the money in case I need it, when I arrive to Tijuana I will call you. And if God allows … we’ll see what happens. Pay attention to your phone. (Luis Antonio Rojas)
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