ISLA, Mexico — Thousands of bone-tired Central Americans set their sights on Mexico City on Sunday, after undertaking a grueling journey through a part of Mexico that has been particularly treacherous for migrants seeking to get to the United States.
The majority of the roughly 4,000 migrants streamed into the town of Cordoba in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, a gateway to the central part of the country 124 miles from their previous stop. The day’s trek was one of the longest yet, as the exhausted migrants tried to make progress walking and hitching rides toward the U.S. border still hundreds of miles away.
It is unclear what part of the U.S. border they will aim for eventually, but their latest overnight stay in Veracruz could be one of their last before they head to Mexico City, a potential launching spot for a broader array of destinations.
In the capital, they may also receive additional support, although Mexican officials have appeared conflicted over whether to help or hinder their journey.
Manuel Calderon, 43, a migrant from El Salvador, knew many miles lay ahead and said he wanted to “speed up the pace.” He said he was fleeing violence in his home country and had dreams of making it back to the U.S., from which he was deported a little more than two years ago.
On the road, he was greeted by ordinary Mexicans lending a hand. Catalina Munoz said she bought tortillas on credit to assemble tacos of beans, cheese and rice when she heard the migrant caravan would pass through Benemerito Juarez, her tiny town of 3,000 inhabitants. She gathered 15 others to help make the tacos, fill water bottles and carry fruit to weary travelers on the roadside.
As migrants began filing into a sports complex in Cordoba, others had already hopped freight trucks to Puebla and even Mexico City. A few arrived at a large outdoor stadium in the capital and lounged on bleachers a day after divisions beset the ranks of the caravan over which route to take.
Some were disappointed after organizers unsuccessfully pleaded for buses after three weeks on the road. Others were angry for being directed northward through Veracruz, calling it the “route of death.”
The trek past the state’s sugar fields and fruit groves has taken the majority through a state where hundreds of migrants have disappeared in recent years, falling prey to kidnappers looking for ransom payments. Authorities there said in September they had discovered remains from at least 174 people buried in clandestine graves, raising questions about whether the bodies belonged to migrants.
But even with the group somewhat more scattered, most of the migrants were convinced that traveling as a large mass was their best hope for reaching the U.S. The migrants generally say they are fleeing rampant poverty, gang violence and political instability primarily in the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
“We think that it is better to continue together with the caravan. We are going to stay with it and respect the organizers,” said Luis Euseda, a 32-year-old from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, traveling with his wife, Jessica Fugon. “Others went ahead, maybe they have no goal, but we do have a goal and it is to arrive.”
Mynor Chavez, a 19-year-old from Copan, Honduras, was determined to continue.
“I have no prospects (in Honduras). I graduated as a computer technician and not even with a degree have I been able to find work,” he said of his home country.
Mexico faces the unprecedented situation of having three migrant caravans stretched over 300 miles (500 kilometers) of highway in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Veracruz.
On Friday, a caravan from El Salvador waded over the Suchiate River into Mexico, bringing around 1,000 people who want to reach the U.S. border. That caravan initially tried to cross the bridge between Guatemala and Mexico, but Mexican authorities told them they would have to show passports and visas and enter in groups of 50 for processing.
Another caravan, also of about 1,000 people, entered Mexico early in the past week. That group includes Hondurans, Salvadorans and some Guatemalans.
The first, and largest, group of mainly Honduran migrants entered Mexico on Oct. 19.
Mexico’s Interior Ministry estimated Saturday that there are more than 5,000 migrants in total currently moving through southern Mexico via caravans or in smaller groups. The ministry says 2,793 migrants have applied for refuge in Mexico in recent weeks and around 500 have asked for assistance to return to their countries of origin.
Uncertainty awaits migrants who reach the U.S.
President Donald Trump has ordered U.S. troops to the Mexican border in response to the caravans. More than 7,000 active duty troops have been told to deploy to Texas, Arizona and California ahead of the midterm elections.
He plans to sign an order that could lead to the large-scale detention of migrants crossing the southern border and bar anyone caught crossing illegally from claiming asylum.
Associated Press writer Amy Guthrie in Mexico City contributed to this report.
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