The Washington Post Sunday

Faces of people waiting to cross the border in Tijuana.

Photograph­er Luis Antonio Rojas documents the faces of migrants from Central America — and their messages home to loved ones

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Iwas with the Central American caravan, documentin­g it as it made its way through Mexico toward the U.S. border. One night in Mexico City, I gave my phone to Hugo Martinez so he could call his dad back home. Martinez, who’d left Tegucigalp­a, Honduras, couldn’t get through, so he recorded a voice memo in which he apologized for not saying goodbye to his father before heading north with his 20-something son. When he gave my phone back, we both stared at the floor for a long time.

Martinez is one of the 8,000 migrants who left their home countries in the largest convoy ever to travel the migrant corridor. It is easy to reduce their stories into categories: the teenager fleeing compulsory gang service, the mother seeking better opportunit­ies for her children, the orphan. But they are much more than those stereotype­s. They are escaping realities we can’t even imagine. I was interested in the people they’d left behind — and their links to home— because they represent the gaps between what we think are their concerns and what really robs them of their sleep. Many migrants hoped, with their departure, to improve the lives of their loved ones back home.

When the travelers arrived in Tijuana, I began lending my cellphone so they could contact people in their home countries. With their consent, we recorded phone calls and voice mails. We sent WhatsApp voice notes and used Facebook Messenger while I took photos with my medium-format camera. The results, edited excerpts of which are printed here, were beautiful shared moments, testimonie­s to hard times and reflection­s of uncertaint­y.

 ?? LUIS ANTONIO ROJAS ??
LUIS ANTONIO ROJAS
 ??  ?? Cintia Dominguez, 23, from Nacaome, Honduras. WhatsApp voice note to her sister in the United States. Nov. 22. Hi Carla, it’s me, Cintia. I’m here in Tijuana, at the border of . . . I’m at the wall already. How’s it called? What I wanted to say to is . . . can you send me at least 20 dollars? If you could see . . . we are stuck here. We have nothing to eat. Damn, I’m suffering. Someone send money to Rudis, I don’t know who. You haven’t sent me anything, right? Send me at least 20 dollars, Carla. I’ll appreciate it so much. Don’t worry, if I cross to the other side, I’ll help you too.
Cintia Dominguez, 23, from Nacaome, Honduras. WhatsApp voice note to her sister in the United States. Nov. 22. Hi Carla, it’s me, Cintia. I’m here in Tijuana, at the border of . . . I’m at the wall already. How’s it called? What I wanted to say to is . . . can you send me at least 20 dollars? If you could see . . . we are stuck here. We have nothing to eat. Damn, I’m suffering. Someone send money to Rudis, I don’t know who. You haven’t sent me anything, right? Send me at least 20 dollars, Carla. I’ll appreciate it so much. Don’t worry, if I cross to the other side, I’ll help you too.
 ??  ?? Kimberly Yorleni, 23, from Tegucigalp­a, Honduras. Excerpt of phone call to her sister and mother in Honduras. Nov. 30. We leave on Wednesday, to the other side . . . . Don’t despair, old lady. Yes I’m fine, don’t despair. Little by little. Fighting but . . . little by little. No, Mommy, I’m moving forward. We are going with the “Gringo.” . . . And the kids? What are they doing? . . . Mireya? Iris? Why don’t they answer? No, I’m fine, don’t worry. No, I’m leaving, nobody can stop me. Yes, take care of my kids. Enroll Astrid. Enroll Astrid. What’s up, love? Pass me to Mommy because I don’t have a lot of credit.
Kimberly Yorleni, 23, from Tegucigalp­a, Honduras. Excerpt of phone call to her sister and mother in Honduras. Nov. 30. We leave on Wednesday, to the other side . . . . Don’t despair, old lady. Yes I’m fine, don’t despair. Little by little. Fighting but . . . little by little. No, Mommy, I’m moving forward. We are going with the “Gringo.” . . . And the kids? What are they doing? . . . Mireya? Iris? Why don’t they answer? No, I’m fine, don’t worry. No, I’m leaving, nobody can stop me. Yes, take care of my kids. Enroll Astrid. Enroll Astrid. What’s up, love? Pass me to Mommy because I don’t have a lot of credit.
 ??  ?? Hugo Martinez, 39, from Tegucigalp­a, Honduras. WhatsApp voice note to his father in Honduras. Nov. 23. Father, I’m calling you, but I send you this audio with a lot of love, with a lot of affection. I apologize for not being able to say goodbye the day that the caravan passed. We shared good moments together in your house, but remember that I have you in my heart. I’m sorry.
Hugo Martinez, 39, from Tegucigalp­a, Honduras. WhatsApp voice note to his father in Honduras. Nov. 23. Father, I’m calling you, but I send you this audio with a lot of love, with a lot of affection. I apologize for not being able to say goodbye the day that the caravan passed. We shared good moments together in your house, but remember that I have you in my heart. I’m sorry.
 ??  ?? Diego Tercero, 17, from Nacaome, Honduras. Excerpt of phone call to his pastor in Honduras. Nov. 21. A little bit bad . . . . You know that I’ve never been outside. . . . I know God’s with me, but it’s not the same, it’s not the same . . . . You know that we’re always together in our birthday. Same, same. Take care of yourself. I love you very much, I give you my heart, you know it. We’re both celebratin­g our birthdays. I carry you in my heart, whatever happens. . . . That’s the way it is, you understand me? Each one’s destiny. Same, same, same, same. Take care of yourself. God bless you.
Diego Tercero, 17, from Nacaome, Honduras. Excerpt of phone call to his pastor in Honduras. Nov. 21. A little bit bad . . . . You know that I’ve never been outside. . . . I know God’s with me, but it’s not the same, it’s not the same . . . . You know that we’re always together in our birthday. Same, same. Take care of yourself. I love you very much, I give you my heart, you know it. We’re both celebratin­g our birthdays. I carry you in my heart, whatever happens. . . . That’s the way it is, you understand me? Each one’s destiny. Same, same, same, same. Take care of yourself. God bless you.
 ??  ?? Michel Galdamez, 12, from Ocotepeque, Honduras. WhatsApp voice note to her grandmothe­r in Honduras. Nov 12. Hi, Grandma. How are you? I hope you’re in good health. Say hello to my aunt Isamar, my uncle Kevito, my uncle Adenai. Tell everyone in the family that I love them so much and that I miss them. And you too, Grandma. I hope that you’re in good health, did you hear me? We are doing fine, thank God. The whole family is here. My aunt Yami, Chepe, my uncle Chonte, my mommy, my uncle Nelson. Even little Juan is here.
Michel Galdamez, 12, from Ocotepeque, Honduras. WhatsApp voice note to her grandmothe­r in Honduras. Nov 12. Hi, Grandma. How are you? I hope you’re in good health. Say hello to my aunt Isamar, my uncle Kevito, my uncle Adenai. Tell everyone in the family that I love them so much and that I miss them. And you too, Grandma. I hope that you’re in good health, did you hear me? We are doing fine, thank God. The whole family is here. My aunt Yami, Chepe, my uncle Chonte, my mommy, my uncle Nelson. Even little Juan is here.
 ??  ?? José María Avelar, 45, from Ocotepeque, Honduras. WhatsApp voice note to his wife in Honduras. Nov. 23. We haven’t been able to get out of here because things are very serious . . . . Take care of my daughters. As much as you can. Take care of yourself, too. . . . I was able to communicat­e with my brother, I will probably let you know if he helps me or not . . . . I even left cut soybean grain in the middle of the ranch . . . . Look for my nephew so he helps you to pick them up. Even if it’s just enough so that you can survive there. Because I can’t send you anything even if I want to . . . . I love you very much.
José María Avelar, 45, from Ocotepeque, Honduras. WhatsApp voice note to his wife in Honduras. Nov. 23. We haven’t been able to get out of here because things are very serious . . . . Take care of my daughters. As much as you can. Take care of yourself, too. . . . I was able to communicat­e with my brother, I will probably let you know if he helps me or not . . . . I even left cut soybean grain in the middle of the ranch . . . . Look for my nephew so he helps you to pick them up. Even if it’s just enough so that you can survive there. Because I can’t send you anything even if I want to . . . . I love you very much.

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