By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla
Mexico City, Dec 13 (EFE).- After a month-and-a-half-long northward trek on foot, a caravan of Central American migrants managed to arrive in Mexico City, where they are resting on Monday as they discuss what to do next: either ask Mexico to regularize their immigration status so they can remain here and work or continue their journey toward the US border.
“The road has been very long. We’ve taken all kinds of risks but now we’re here. It’s been … difficult,” Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders) activist Irineo Mujica, who is accompanying the caravan, told EFE.
The caravan of about 300 people, most of them from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Haiti, is the first to manage to make it to the Mexican capital since late 2018, given that since then all the migrant contingents have been broken up by Mexican authorities in coordination with the US government.
The migrants – who left Tapachula, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, which borders on Guatemala, in October – arrived on the outskirts of Mexico City on Sunday night and their passage was blocked by a heavy deployment of police.
After a short period of confrontation, the authorities lifted the blockade and the migrants continued toward their objective: the Basilica de Guadalupe where they intended to pray to the Virgin Mary on her saint’s day.
Later, they spent the night at a tent camp sleeping on mats at the Pilgrim’s House near the basilica, where local authorities distributed food and facemasks to them.
At a press conference, capital Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said that she had not ordered the caravan’s access to the basilica or the city impeded and promised to “guarantee” the rights of the migrants.
But Mujica said that the immigration policy of the Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador administration has been “the harshest in the last decade” and accused the authorities of having fought the caravan with “physical and psychological torture” during the more than 1,100 kilometers (682 miles) of its journey so far.
In addition, she blamed the authorities for the accident last Friday in which 55 migrants died in Chiapas when the overcrowded truck in which they were riding – driven by people smugglers – flipped over on the highway.
The 300 or so migrants, most of them women and children, woke visibly exhausted on Monday at the campsite, where health authorities later performed Covid-19 tests on them and inoculated them against the flu.
The migrants still don’t know how many days they will remain on the northern outskirts of the Mexican capital.
Many of them left Tapachula due to the delays in the immigration procedures being undertaken by Mexican authorities there and they are hoping that the federal government will grant them permanent residence in Mexico, although they are not ruling out continuing on their journey toward the US.
Isabel Andino is a 33-year-old Honduran who left her country because gangs there were extorting her but Mexican authorities refused to recognize her asylum request.
“Yesterday we went to the Basilica and I asked the Virgin to touch the heart of the president and be able to help all my brothers and sisters because this road has been hard for us. We’re not doing it because we want to, but rather to get ahead (in life),” she said without being able to contain her sobs thinking about her children, who she left in Honduras.
Another Honduran, Fany Mejia, started the journey with her two daughters, ages 5 and 7, and they are now suffering from problems with their feet from walking so much.
“If Mexico doesn’t help us the idea is to continue and, let’s hope they give us the chance to move freely to the northern border,” said Mejia, who has a degree in education but could not find work in her homeland.
On the other hand, Carlos David Flores, a 22-year-old Guatemalan, is clear about wanting to get to the US, where his brother already lives, although he said he knows that the road “will get hotter” as they move farther north.
“In Guatemala, there’s a lot of extortion, a lot of killings, the whole country is corrupt and I decided to leave to get ahead for my family’s sake,” the young man, who is traveling alone, said.
The Mexican government in 2019 agreed with the Donald Trump administration to halt the flow of migrants traversing Mexico en route to the US.