Fruit, coffee donated
MEXICO CITY — Thousands of Central Americans dreaming of getting to the U.S. awoke Tuesday to donations of fruit and hot coffee at a sports stadium in Mexico’s chilly capital as the U.S. held midterm elections in which U.S. President Donald Trump has made the migrant caravan a central issue.
Authorities counted more than 2,000 migrants at the Jesus Martinez stadium late Monday, and a steady flow continued into the night. The facility has capacity to hold 6,000, officials said, and four big tents set up for sleeping filled up. Women and children slept apart from the men—who were relegated to concrete bleachers—while the city’s central market supplied 3 tonnes of bananas and guavas to refuel the crowd.
Still about 1,000 km from the U.S. border, the migrants dozed on thin mattresses with blankets to ward off the chill in a city some 2,240 metres above sea level, a big change after trudging for three weeks in tropical heat. Temperatures dropped below 11 C during the night.
Nashieli Ramirez, ombudsman for the local human rights commission, said the city was preparing to accommodate as many as 5,000 people. The lead caravan is estimated to have about 4,000 participants and several smaller groups are trailing hundreds of kilometres to the south.
“We have the space in terms of humanitarian help,” Ramirez said.
Many of the migrants sought treatment for blistered and aching feet, respiratory infections, diarrhea and other maladies. City officials administered vaccines for tetanus and influenza. The Oxfam charity offered to donate 20 portable toilets.
Tania Escobar, a nurse with Mexico City’s public health department, said from a medical tent that demand was high for consultations. “Since we got here, we have not stopped,” she said.
Melvin Figueroa, a 32-year-old from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, was with his pregnant wife and two children, aged six and age. He took the six-year-old girl to the tent because her eyes were irritated and “she throws up everything she eats.”
More migrants were trudging along the highway between the city of Puebla and the capital, trying to hitch rides from passing vehicles.
Trump has seized on the caravan and portrayed it as a major threat, though such caravans have sprung up regularly over the years and largely passed unnoticed.
He ordered thousands of troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, threatened to detain asylum seekers in tent cities and insinuated without proof that there are criminals or even terrorists in the group.
In dozens of interviews since the initial caravan set out from Honduras more than three weeks ago, migrants have said they are escaping poverty and rampant violence. Many are families travelling with small children. Some say they left because they were threatened by gang members or had lost relatives to gang violence. Others say they hope to work, secure a good education for their children and send money to support relatives back home.
Upon arrival in Mexico City, some migrants visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a major pilgrimage site, to thank the Virgin Mary for watching over them during the journey.