Expelled Honduran migrants cling on to American dream

3 min
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El Florido (Guatemala) (AFP)

Returning home to a life of hunger and desolation, Hondurans who were kicked out of Guatemala as they started off on a long walk to the United States are vowing they will not abandon their pursuit of the American dream.

Among the thousands driven back to the border Tuesday in buses and trucks provided by Guatemala and Mexico, many told AFP they are not ready to give up on their dreams of a better life.

Rosa Baquedano, was among the thousands of migrants in a caravan dispersed this week by security forces with tear gas and batons in the Guatemalan town of Vado Hondo, less than 50 kilometers (31 miles) inside the border.

Her family lost everything, even their home, after Honduras was hit by two violent tropical storms last November that caused vast devastation, not yet repaired.

"I want to try again" to get to the United States, Baquedano, 35, said at the El Florido border crossing where thousands of migrants were dumped Tuesday.

The group had already walked more than 200 kilometers after departing Honduras last Friday.

"We don't want to return to our country because everything there is complicated. We are dying of hunger," she said.

On Monday, security forces broke up the caravan of some 4,000 migrants at Vado Hondo, where they had waited for three days, sleeping out of doors, to be allowed through and continue their journey of thousands of kilometers on foot through Central America.

They had been blocking a key road, causing a massive logjam of cargo trucks, their wares at risk of spoiling.

- 'We need help' -

Saying they are desperate to escape poverty, unemployment, gang and drug violence and the aftermath of last year's hurricanes, the migrants were hoping for a welcome, and a shot at a better future, in the America of President-elect Joe Biden after years of anti-immigrant rhetoric under Donald Trump.

Some 9,000 have set out from Honduras since last Friday.

But they encountered a wall of police in Vado Hondo. Thousands of Guatemalan security personnel were deployed under strict orders to stop anyone without travel documents or a negative coronavirus test.

Twenty-one migrants tested positive for the virus along the route.

Mexico too, reinforced its border control, and Washington warned the would-be asylum seekers in an official communication not to "waste your time and money".

"We need help and support because we don't want to go back," pleaded Baquedano as she waited for a bus on the border that will take her to San Pedro Sula, Honduras's second-largest city, from where most of the migrants started their journey.

"We're going back to nothing," she said, in tears.

- 'We have nothing' -

Baquedano was separated from her husband and three-year-old son in Tuesday's clashes with police and soldiers that left several on both sides injured.

Her compatriot Jose Vasquez, traveling with his wife and toddler son, said he, too, would reattempt the journey as soon as possible, undeterred by an exhausting five days of walking, little food, and sleeping on the ground in the cold.

In Honduras, he sold peanuts on buses to eke out a living.

"I'm going to look for some money to try again... We have nothing in Honduras so we are pursuing the American dream because want to lift ourselves and help our families," Vasquez told AFP.