SUCHIATE, Mexico – Honduran migrant Juan Fernando is waiting on Mexican authorities to issue him a visitor’s card for humanitarian reasons, and he wants to stay in Mexico instead of pursuing a life in the United States, a desire shared by thousands of members of the Central American caravan who arrived at the southern Mexican border recently.
“We’re really looking for space here in Mexico because to go to the US we need money and we don’t have it,” Juan Fernando said as he waited patiently in a park in Suchiate, on the border between Mexico and Guatemala.
Juan Fernando says he is confident that he and his family will receive the humanitarian visitor cards that Mexico has offered to members of the caravan – the first of this year – after other caravans had arrived in the country late last year.
“What we are going to do with the aid we’re about to receive is look for a job,” said Juan Fernando, who has experience in construction.
He said that in his home country things are becoming economically difficult and that his family joined the caravan with the intention of traveling to the US for security reasons.
Traveling with him are his wife and two children, his sister and three other sisters-in-law, who also brought their five children ranging in age from eight months to eight years old.
“We’re going to Mexico City. They say it’s good and that there is employment, that you get paid well. That’s why we want to go there,” he said.
The Honduran migrant explained that he’s not interested in going further from the Mexican capital because they have been told that the trip is very dangerous because of criminal groups, drug traffickers and kidnappers, things to which he doesn’t want to expose his family.
Juan Fernando said that his journey from Honduras has been very difficult, especially because of the disappointment he experienced after finding out that his country’s currency – the lempira – “has no value” compared to the Guatemalan quetzal, trading at just 3.1 lempiras per quetzal.
“It’s very difficult because after crossing through Guatemala we noticed that the quetzal is more expensive. Mexico helps us a little more, not very much, but if our currency is totally devalued it’s even harder,” he said.
While Juan waits with his children, sister and a brother-in-law, his wife Sheyla Matamoros has been in a shelter run by Mexico’s National Migration Institute with her eight-month-old baby so she could get the humanitarian visitor card, which she obtained after waiting for several days.
“I am super grateful because it’s a great opportunity that cleared the path for us to get into Mexico, because my destination is the United States,” she said.
“First I’ll find out (if there is) employment here, in Mexico, and then I’ll take a look at my chances of getting to the US and working there. And maybe, if they give me the opportunity to study, I’ll study,” Matamoros said.
Upon arriving at Guatemala’s border with Mexico, Juan and Sheyla’s family stayed at shelters in Tecun Uman, where there are about 4,000 migrants waiting for Mexico’s OK on their humanitarian visitor requests.
“I’m excited for my children. I’m traveling with my baby, my sister, my sister-in-law, my husband and my two children. And I asked my husband to join us because it’s a great opportunity. God has opened the doors for us,” Sheyla said.
Sheyla also mentioned that her husband warned her that the trip would be dangerous, that maybe they could split up but “we saw an opportunity to be together and get ahead even if it was in another country.”
Unlike last year’s caravans, this first caravan of 2019 includes many families of up to 14 people – adults, teenagers and children – who have come on the journey for the same reason: to seek a better quality of life.