The bitter smiles of Central American migrants in Mexico


MEXICO CITY, Mexico, April 13, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Their lips often curve into a tentative smile as they face the camera, but the Central American migrants crossing Mexico toward the United States have little reason to be happy.

The migrant caravan’s trek triggered the fury of US President Donald Trump, who demanded the Mexican government stop them and ordered thousands of National Guard troops to reinforce the border.

Holding the few things they brought with them on their journey — a Honduran flag, a Green Bay Packers sweatshirt, a bright-eyed young daughter – – the migrants posed for photo portraits for AFP, telling the stories of poverty and violence that made them leave their homes and pleading with US authorities to give them a chance.

“I want to make it up north, God willing. In my country there are no jobs, and the violence has gotten so bad you can’t live there,” said Oscar Dalis, 38, a Salvadoran migrant.

The caravan, which set off from the Mexico-Guatemala border on March 25, originally had more than 1,000 migrants, before Trump’s angry tweets put pressure on organizers to break it up.

About 700 of them are now gathered at a shelter in Mexico City, determined to either gain asylum in the United States or remain in Mexico.

The Mexican government has issued them two types of papers: 20-day transit visas to leave the country or 30-day temporary visas for those who want to apply for refugee status here.

Mexico has bristled at Trump’s attacks, ordering a review of its cooperation with the United States and warning the Republican president it would not stand for threats and disrespect.

The migrant caravan is an annual event held since 2010.

Organizers say its goal is mainly to raise awareness about the plight of the thousands of migrants who cross Mexico each year, not to reach the United States — though some participants have traveled all the way to the US border in the past.