MEXICO CITY – A caravan of more than 1,000 Hondurans is winding its way toward their country's border with Guatemala, with the goal of reaching a better life in the United States.
Dunia Montoya, a volunteer helping the migrants, said the group planned to sleep Saturday inside an auditorium in Santa Rosa de Copan, a town several hours east by car from Guatemala.
The migration began swelling spontaneously Friday after local media reported on approximately 160 migrants who had agreed to depart together for greater safety from San Pedro Sula. The aspiring migrants organized via WhatsApp chats.
"People leave Honduras every day, but this is the first time (they do it) in a public way and in a group," Montoya said in a telephone interview from Santa Rosa de Copan.
Other Hondurans who had been thinking of leaving the country saw an opportunity to go with a support network. They stuffed backpacks with essentials and rushed to join the caravan.
People lent vans and trucks to help the group, whose initial members had started out on foot. Hondurans offered bottles of water or food along the way.
Montoya, who plans to stay in Honduras, said many in the caravan have tried multiple times to reach the U.S.
Some did not enroll their children in school this year, planning to take off any day, she said. Others joined the group with months-old babies.
Poor economic prospects are the main reason Hondurans want to leave the Central American country of 9.4 million people, according to a recent survey by the Center for Immigration Studies. Violence was the second most-cited reason.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean projects 3.9 percent economic growth for Honduras this year. The Honduran Labor Ministry pegs unemployment at 6.7 percent, although nearly half of working age Hondurans are underemployed, meaning they can't make ends meet with the amount of paid work they can secure.
"There's a misery and a violence that is overwhelming people. People no longer have faith in this country, and they are fleeing," said Montoya.
Maria Dolores Moreno, 31, said she stuffed a bag with a few personal belongings and grabbed her 10-year-old son to join the caravan Friday. She didn't bring any money with her. She has been unemployed for more than a year, she said. Previously she sold Avon products.
Moreno said by phone that she hopes to find a job — any job — anywhere in the United States.
"We want to adopt the American dream," she said.