Several thousand Central American migrants heading for the U.S. border arrived in the western Mexico city of Guadalajara with help from truckers and other motorists Monday, marking a month since their trek began.
Many of the migrants boarded waiting buses at the Jalisco state line that carried them to a shelter prepared for them in the city’s Benito Juarez Auditorium. Guadalajara municipal police shuttled others in patrol vehicles.
The migrants are mostly families from Honduras. At the shelter, officials had the migrants form two lines — one for families and one for men traveling alone. They were offered food and told where to go for donated clothing and free internet to contact their families.
Most appear intent on taking the Pacific coast route northward to the border city of Tijuana, which is still about 1,550 miles (2,500 kilometers) away. The migrants have come about 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) since they started out in Honduras around Oct. 13.
While they previously suffered from the heat on their journey through Honduras, Guatemala and southern Mexico, they now trek along highways wrapped in blankets to fend off the morning chill.
Karen Martinez of Copan, Honduras, and her three children bundled up with jackets, scarves and a blanket.
“Sometimes we go along laughing, sometimes crying, but we keep on going,” she said.
By late afternoon, the first migrants arrived on the outskirts of Guadalajara.
While the caravan previously averaged only about 30 miles (50 kilometers) a day, the migrants are now covering daily distances of 185 miles (300 kilometers) or more, partly because they are relying on hitchhiking rather than walking.
On Monday morning, migrants gathered on a highway leading out of the central city of Irapuato looking for rides to Guadalajara about 150 miles (242 kilometers) away.
“Now the route is less complicated,” Martinez said.
Indeed, migrants have hopped aboard so many different kinds of trucks that they are no longer surprised by anything. Some have stacked themselves four levels high on a truck intended for pigs. On Monday, a few boarded a truck carrying a shipment of coffins, while yet others squeezed into a truck with narrow cages used for transporting chickens.
Many, especially men, travel on open platform trailers used to transport steel and cars, or get in the freight containers of 18-wheelers and ride with one of the back doors open to provide air flow.
The practice is not without dangers. Earlier, a Honduran man in the caravan died when he fell from a platform truck in the Mexican state of Chiapas.
Jose Alejandro Caray, 17, of Yoro, Honduras, fell a week ago and injured his knee.
“I can’t bend it,” Caray said as he watched other migrants swarm aboard tractor-trailers.
“Now I’m afraid to get on,” he said. “I prefer to wait for a pickup truck.”
After several groups got lost after clambering on semi-trailers, caravan coordinators began encouraging migrants to ask drivers first or have someone ride in the cab so they could tell the driver where to turn off.
Over the weekend, the central state of Queretaro reported 6,531 migrants moving through the state. A smaller caravan began arriving in Mexico City on Monday. By late afternoon, several hundred migrants had set up camp at the same sports complex the larger caravan left Saturday.
The caravan became a campaign issue in U.S. midterm elections and U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered the deployment of over 5,000 military troops to the border to fend off the migrants. Trump has insinuated without proof that there are criminals or even terrorists in the group.
Many say they are fleeing rampant poverty, gang violence and political instability primarily in the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Mexico has offered refuge, asylum or work visas, and its government said Monday that 2,697 temporary visas had been issued to individuals and families to cover them during the 45-day application process for more permanent status. It said about 533 migrants had requested a voluntary return to their countries.
On Monday, Mexican Interior Minister Alfonso Navarrete Prida met with other Cabinet members and the head of a business council to discuss job opportunities that could be offered to members of the caravan who decide to remain in Mexico.
But most migrants vow to continue to the United States.
Jose Tulio Rodriguez, 30, of Siguatepeque, Honduras, celebrated his 30th birthday at a migrant shelter in Mexico City last week before setting out with the rest of the caravan.
“The distance between cities is longer” than it was at the start, Rodriguez noted,” but thanks to the people of Mexico, we haven’t suffered.”
Those distances will get longer the farther they travel into northern Mexico, where towns of any size are often 250 miles (400 kilometers) apart.