Hun­dreds of mi­grants leave Mex­ico City for U. S. bor­der

The Republican Herald - - FRONT PAGE - 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- yearold plumber from Gu­atemala City, wrapped him­self from head to toe in a blan­ket against the cold and asked by­standers where the first toll booth 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, Cas- tanaza 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 ad­vanced 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 mas­sive 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 be­hind four chil­dren and a wife in Hon­duras. “We have to get go­ing, we have to get to Ti­juana.”

Though he was un­sure how an un­skilled farm­worker like him 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 which 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.

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 no longer wanted U. N. ob­servers with the car­a­van. The U. N. on Fri­day de­nied the of­fer.

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.”

The mi­grants made a big point of stick­ing to­gether, their only form of self- pro­tec­tion.

Fe­lix Ro­driguez, 35, of Cho­luteca, Hon­duras, had been at the Mex­ico City sports com­plex for more than a week.

“We all want to get mov­ing,” he said. But he was wait­ing for the main group to leave Sat­ur­day, not­ing “it is bet­ter to leave in a group, be­cause leav­ing in small bunches is dan­ger­ous.”

AS­SO­CI­ATeD PReSS

Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants ride on the sub­way Fri­day af­ter leav­ing the tem­po­rary shel­ter at the Je­sus Martinez sta­dium in Mex­ico City.

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