Some travel with friends and others, like Gilberto, a 27-year-old Venezuelan, with their dog.
“The economic situation is very difficult there (in Venezuela), we are leaving. The salary does not allow us to buy anything, you have to buy everything in dollars and we pay you in bolivar which is worth nothing”, explains Gilberto Rodriguez, in the town of Tecun Uman, on the border with Mexico.
For less than a dollar, it is possible from this city to cross in ten minutes on a precarious boat the Suchiate river, which marks the border with the Mexican neighbor.
Gilberto left with Negro, his dog who has accompanied him since leaving Caracas two months ago.
With him, the Venezuelan survived the dangerous Darien jungle, between Colombia and Panama, then crossed Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and finally Guatemala.
An interminable journey of several thousand kilometers, through eight countries, and which he dreams of continuing as far as the United States.
However, American justice has just prevented the lifting of a health measure implemented by the government of Donald Trump during the Covid-19 pandemic in order to be able to expel without delay migrants crossing without a visa the land borders of the United States.
Unlike the situation several months ago, when migrants piled up in border towns with Mexico, they are rarer now.
On the roads of Guatemala, the police keep watch and systematically check the buses to check the papers of the passengers.
Migrants then move in “smaller groups” who quickly try to enter Mexico, explains Alejandra Godinez, of the Migrant Welcome Office in Tecun Uman. “They split into several groups and then end up on the Mexican side.”
– Discouraging “caravans” –
Rubén Méndez, the mayor of Ayutla, the municipality where Tecun Uman is located, is convinced that the operations of the Guatemalan police now prevent migrants from forming new “caravans”, these cohorts of hundreds or thousands of migrants who, since 2018 , used to cross the country from Honduras.
Between January and May, Guatemala also expelled 303 Central American nationals, as well as 69 Venezuelans, 165 Cubans and 86 people of other nationalities.
The last “caravan” of around 500 migrants was quickly dispersed in January when it entered Guatemala.
A year earlier, 7,000 people had been pushed back with truncheons and tear gas.
With his backpack on his shoulders, Gilberto explains that his objective in Guatemala was to escape the police patrols who take advantage of it to “take money from us”.
Along the way, accompanied by his dog, a mongrel with a black and white coat, Gilberto experienced solidarity.
They often shared the same dish. They sometimes slept on the streets because migrant shelters do not always accept animals.
The day before crossing the river, Gilberto, his dog and nine other migrants take a break in the Maison du migrant, a humanitarian organization.
“We crossed mountains, rivers, canyons” and faced “the police who robbed us”, says Moisés Ayerdi, a 25-year-old Nicaraguan who says he is fleeing poverty and political repression in his country where he left his wife and a three-year-old girl.
All want to find work in the United States to send money to their families and then bring them to live with them.
On the Suchiate river, the raft made of tires is maneuvered by a ferryman using a long pole.
Once on Mexican soil, the Negro dog jumps from his master’s arms and takes the path that leaves the shore. He too “is a migrant”, smiles Gilberto.