Frustration Grows for Migrants 04/21 11:22
MAPASTEPEC, Mexico (AP) -- Madison Mendoza, her feet aching and her face
burned by the sun, wept as she said she had nothing to feed her 2-year-old son
who she'd brought with her on the long trek toward the United States.
Mendoza, 22, said an aunt in Honduras had convinced her to join the migrant
caravan, which she did two weeks ago in the capital of Tegucigalpa. The aunt
said she'd have no problems, that people along the route in Mexico would help
as they did for a large caravan that moved through the area in October.
But this time, the help did not come. The outpouring of aid that once
greeted Central American migrants as they trekked in caravans through southern
Mexico has been drying up. Hungrier, advancing slowly or not at all, and
hounded by unhelpful local officials, frustration is growing among the 5,000 to
8,000 migrants in the southern state of Chiapas.
"What causes me pain is that the baby asks me for food and there are days
when I can't provide it," said Mendoza, who fled Honduras with almost no money
because she feared for her life after receiving threats from the father of her
son. "I thought that with the baby, people would help me on road."
Members of the caravan in October received food and shelter from town
governments, churches and passers-by. Drivers of trucks stopped to give them a
lift. Little of that is happening this time. And local officials who once gave
them temporary permits to work in Mexico, now seem to snare them in red tape.
Truckers and drivers have been told they will be fined if caught transporting
migrants without proper documentation.
Mendoza bathed her son, Jos, under a stream of water in Escuintla, a
Mexican town 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the Guatemalan border. It was
the first time she has been able to bath the child since they left Tegucigalpa.
"I don't even have a peso," she said, teary-eyed. Many migrants are
collecting mangos and fruits from trees along the route and sharing food among
Some 1,300 migrants spent the night in Escuintla and were heading north to
the town of Mapastepec, Chiapas. Mendoza and Jos arrived in Mapastepec on
Saturday. They joined thousands of stranded migrants waiting to see if local
authorities provide them with a temporary permit or visa to work in Mexico or
whether they would continue their trip to the U.S. border.
Heyman Vzquez, a parish priest in Huixtla, a community along the caravan's
route, said local support for the Central American migrants has dried up
because of an anti-migrant discourse that blames them for crime and insecurity.
"It is due to the campaign of discrimination and xenophobia created through
social networks and the media that blames migrants for the insecurity in
Chiapas," he said.
Oscar Prez, who sells cooked pork in Ulapa, a village along the way, said
people have become tired of supporting the migrants because of reports that
"they've become aggressive." He acknowledged, however, that he doesn't know of
anyone who has been attacked by a migrant.
The frustration felt by the migrants is affecting Geovani Villanueva, who
has spent 25 days along with several hundred other migrants at a sports complex
in Mapastepec waiting for a permit that would let him legally and safely travel
north with his wife, two small children and four other relatives.
"I think it's a strategy by the government to wear us out," said Villanueva,
The latest caravan is heading north during Holy Week in Latin America, when
many activists organize processions to dramatize the hardships and needs of
migrants. Caravans became a popular way of making the trek because the
migrants find safety in numbers and save money by not hiring smugglers.
Mexico is under pressure from the Trump administration to thwart them from
reaching the U.S. border. In April, President Donald Trump threatened to close
the U.S.-Mexico border before changing course and threatening tariffs on
automobiles produced in Mexico if that country does not stop the flow of
Central American migrants.
U.S. border facilities have been overwhelmed by the number of migrant
families. U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced recent that 53,000
parents and children were apprehended at the border in March.
Nancy Valladares, who is from the city of Progreso in Honduras, is part of
the caravan that reached Mapastepec. She is traveling with her husband and two
daughters in baby carriages.
She said the family hoped to reach the U.S. and find help for her 2-year-old
daughter Belen, who she says was born with microcephaly due to a Zika
infection, and cannot walk or talk.
Valladares complained that they weren't able to find anyone to give them a
ride, and when her family and scores of other migrants climbed on to a
truck-trailer in Escuintla, federal police forced them to get down and walk.
Tired and angry, many migrants no longer want to talk to reporters.
Villanueva, who owned several small stores back in Honduras, said he left
his homeland because gangs had threatened to kill him after he refused to pay
He said he left to save his life and one thing is clear to him: there is no