As the world watches, the migrant caravan continues on its way, despite exhaustion, the unforgiving heat, and their feet that are hurting more and more each day. Having reached Santiago Niltepec in Oaxaca on Monday, the caravan is now heading in the direction of Mexico City, almost 550 kilometers away. At every point, the local communities have offered them food, water and car rides for those who can only move slower, such as families with small children (who make up one in four of the migrants, according to UNICEF).
However, as Alejandra Castillo of UNICEF Mexico has pointed out, the hardships they face are becoming more acute at every stage: from Arriaga (in Chiapas) to Tapanatepec (in Oaxaca), the caravan did not cross through any inhabited area that could offer them supplies, and it will be the same from Niltepec to Juchitán. Even more: in the near future, the heat and humidity will gradually give way to the cold, and this will be even worse for the migrants, taking into account that most of them don’t have adequate clothes or blankets.
Not all of them have managed to make it to this point. Melvin Josué Gómez is one who succumbed along the way: he fell off a truck on Oct. 22 while trying to cross the Mexican border. At his funeral, held in the Chamelón region in Honduras after his body was repatriated, the young man’s father accused the country’s government: “Here, the law is not the same for everyone: they want the poor to become poorer and poorer, and the rich to get even richer.”
Two more migrants have died: one of them hit by a truck, and the other—Henry Diaz, aged 26—killed by a rubber bullet in the head on the Rodolfo Robles bridge on the Suchiate river, between Ciudad Hidalgo in Mexico’s Chiapas and Tecún Umán in Guatemala. He was part of the second caravan of migrants, which left later than the first and which consists of around 1,500 people. Arriving on Sunday at the border between Guatemala and Mexico, they were met with violent repression by both the Guatemalan police and the Mexican police. A third group, which left on Sunday from El Salvador, is expected to arrive at the same crossing in the next few days.
But there are also a few hundred migrants who have given up, overtaken by fatigue and frightened by the long way still to go. The first ones to give in, a group of at least 30 people, went to the town hall of Huixtla asking for help to get back, despite fearing reprisals on their return to Honduras. Several others have done the same.
It’s difficult to predict how this extraordinary undertaking, with so many migrants fleeing from poverty and violence, will finally end. But many think that there won’t be any happy ending for them. US Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has said that if the migrants try to cross the border, they will be arrested and deported. And Trump has ordered 5,200 soldiers to be sent to the border with Mexico—a contingent almost equal to the US military force currently present in Iraq—and announced that a “tent city” would be put up where the migrants would have to wait for the outcome of their asylum applications: “If they don’t get asylum, they get out.”
At the other end of its path—in Honduras, where it all started—the caravan has given rise to a large wave of solidarity among the population, along with renewed denunciations of the policies of the coup-installed government led by Juan Orlando Hernández. From Oct. 23 to 26, responding to the call by the Convergencia contra el continuismo, the joint leadership of the Honduran social movements, the popular forces have organized an internal caravan which traveled 300 kilometers, from La Barca to Tegucigalpa.
This local caravan had two main objectives: to express their solidarity with the families traveling to the United States, and to demand the calling of early elections for April 2019 by the Honduran government, the establishment of a new electoral tribunal and the creation of an international commission for observation and supervision under the aegis of the United Nations.