MEXICO CITY — For most of the migrants here, the U.S. midterm elections were a vague rumor, a fragment of information that circulated without meaning. When the results came in Tuesday, the migrants were splayed out in white plastic tents in an aging Olympic stadium, after about a thousand miles on the road. They slept or watched cartoons on a giant screen.
If this week’s vote was indeed the “election of the caravan,” as President Trump said, no one had bothered to tell the people in the caravan.
Their journey never had anything to do with the U.S. elections, and the proof of that is apparent now, as the migrants continue north, as unaware of American politics as they were two weeks ago.
What happened to the caravan after the midterm elections? The same thing that happened each day before. Early Wednesday and Thursday, thousands of migrants awoke here and planned the journey ahead. They fed their children. They smoked cigarettes. They prayed.
“There was a rumor going around that Donald Trump had supposedly lost, but I don’t know if it’s true. I do know that there was an election,” said Avel Antonio Mejia, 21, from Ocotepeque, Honduras. “Many times other people pass on news by word of mouth, but we don’t know if it’s true or false."
Most of the migrants here were unaware of the rumors that the caravan’s very existence — their own journey — was a political stunt. Those tweets and news stories were posted while they walked through northern Guatemala and southern Mexico, many without phones or Internet access.
How the world will consider the caravan now, after the U.S. elections, is a different question. The U.S. military inexplicably changed the name of its deployment on the border from “Operation Faithful Patriot” to simply “border support.” The number of people typing “caravan” into Google is crashing. Trump mentioned the caravan only once at Wednesday’s marathon news conference. Americans were sure that the news coverage had slowed.
“Strange that the media isn’t all over the caravan story anymore,” tweeted Ben Rhodes, a former aide to President Barack Obama.
On Thursday, many reporters were in the stadium with the migrants, another aspect of their journey to which the travelers had become accustomed. They had been interviewed and photographed. They had been videotaped by journalists with cameras, and by drone and iPhone. But they rarely saw where those images were published, or the words that accompanied them, like Fox News' banner headline, “Could Caravan be Bringing Unknown Diseases?”
Mejia said he had been interviewed seven times since entering Guatemala from Honduras.
Kellyn Godoy Hernández, 24, from Valle, Honduras, watched as groups of men lined up to grab spare pairs of donated jeans from a row of cardboard boxes. She had heard the same rumor, that President Trump had lost the election.
“Personally, I’m relieved because we know that he’s been denying us entry,” she said.
But she was uncertain about the accuracy of the news, which was circulating among migrants in the tents set up to distribute food. Her Samsung phone had been ruined in the rain, so she had no way to check the rumor on her own.
Jonny Alexander Portillo, 24, and his cousin, Gerlin Josué Maldonado, 19, leaned against a jacaranda tree outside the stadium Thursday afternoon. They had heard that there would be elections in the United States, and that if one party won, it could be favorable for the remainder of their journey. But they still had not heard about the election results.
Eleven migrants had traveled together, from farmlands in Ocotepeque, and they were not about to turn back.
“We had heard that this was the first of two elections — and if one group won, it would make our situation better. It would help us not suffer on the way, or once we reached the border,” Portillo said.
He still hadn’t figured out which party he was supposed to be rooting for.