Hun­dreds of mi­grants leav­ing Mex­ico City headed for border

The Mercury News - - News - By Mark Steven­son and Christo­pher Sher­man

MEX­ICO CITY >> About 750 Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants headed out of Mex­ico City on Fri­day to em­bark on the long­est and most dan­ger­ous leg of their jour­ney to the U.S. border, while thou­sands more were wait­ing one more day at a mas­sive im­pro­vised shel­ter.

The group that got a head start bun­dled their few pos­ses­sions and started off, tak­ing a sub­way to the north part of the city and then hik­ing down an ex­press­way with a po­lice es­cort.

For many, it was the first time they had ever been in a metro sys­tem, and they had lit­tle knowl­edge of the city or the 1,740 mile route to Ti­juana that lay ahead of them.

Car­los Cas­tanaza, a 29-year-old plumber from Gu­atemala City, wrapped in a blan­ket against the cold and asked by­standers where the first toll­booth was. When told it was in a town about 20 miles away, he care­fully wrote the name of the town on his hand with a pen to re­mem­ber where he was go­ing.

De­ported for driv­ing with­out a li­cense after a decade work­ing in Con­necti­cut, Cas­tanaza was des­per­ate to get back to his two U.S.-born chil­dren. “I’ve been want­ing to get back for more than a year, but I couldn’t un­til the car­a­van came through,” said Cas­tanaza. “That’s why I joined the car­a­van.”

The ad­vance group hoped to reach the north-cen­tral city of Quere­taro, about 105 miles to the north­west, by night­fall.

Mean­while, an­other 4,000 to 5,000 mi­grants milled around the shel­ter im­pro­vised at a Mex­ico City sports com­plex, im­pa­tient to leave.

“Let’s go, let’s go!” shouted Eddy Rivera, 37, a rail-thin mi­grant from Hon­duras who said he couldn’t take stay­ing in the camp any longer.

“We are all sick, from the hu­mid­ity and the cold,” said Rivera, who left his fam­ily be­hind in Hon­duras. “We have to get go­ing, we have to get to Ti­juana.”

Though he was un­sure how an un­skilled farm­worker like him­self would be al­lowed in the United States, he had a sim­ple dream: earn enough money to build a lit­tle house for his fam­ily back in Puerto Cortes, Hon­duras.

Thou­sands of mi­grants have spent the past few days rest­ing, re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal at­ten­tion and de­bat­ing how to pro­ceed with their ar­du­ous trek through Cen­tral Amer­ica and Mex­ico that be­gan in mid-Oc­to­ber.

On Thurs­day, car­a­van rep­re­sen­ta­tives met with of­fi­cials from the lo­cal United Na­tions of­fice and de­manded buses to take them to the border, say­ing the trek would be too hard and dan­ger­ous for walk­ing and hitch­hik­ing.

Car­a­van co­or­di­na­tor Mil­ton Ben­itez said of­fi­cials had of­fered them buses for women and chil­dren but or­ga­niz­ers de­manded that they be for every­one.

By Fri­day, the mi­grants said they were so an­gry at the U.N.’s lack of help that they no longer wanted U.N. ob­servers with the car­a­van.

The United Na­tions on Fri­day de­nied the of­fer, re­leas­ing a state­ment say­ing its agen­cies “are un­able to pro­vide the trans­porta­tion de­manded by some mem­bers of the car­a­van.”


Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants ride on the sub­way after leav­ing the tem­po­rary shel­ter at the Je­sus Mar­tinez sta­dium in Mex­ico City. About 500Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants headed out of Mex­ico City on Fri­day to em­bark on the long­est and most dan­ger­ous leg of their jour­ney to the U.S. border.

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