SAN SALVADOR — Defying US pledges to turn back those seeking asylum at the border, a caravan of about 200 migrants set out on Sunday from El Salvador seeking their American dream.
The group -- separate from the larger one of Central American migrants that began its journey last month -- gathered in a square in the west of the capital.
They then headed out together by bus to Sonsonate, citing gang violence and desperate poverty as their reasons.
From there, the migrants -- including many families with children, decked out in warm clothes and backpacks -- said they would travel to Guatemala by bus, and on to the United States.
They know it won’t be easy without a US visa.
"The truth is, I don’t have much choice. I don’t want to leave but what am I going to do here, alone with two children. No help from anyone at all. And the gangs are threatening us. So we had better get out," said Cecilia Bonilla, 36, with her boys Steven, five, and Daniel, 13.
The single mom without formal job training is leaving her tiny home in a poor area wracked by gang violence, Soyapango. Javier Campos, 42, is an unemployed fisherman and came from distant Usulutan and slept overnight with fellow migrants.
"What am I going to do. I don’t want to leave my family. But it’s because of them I decided to see if... I can get to the US and have hope for a better life," he said, leaving his wife and three children at home for now.
"Here in El Salvador I cannot find a job," or hope for one, he stressed.
On October 13, thousands of Honduran migrants set out in a caravan trying to reach the United States.
On their heels, in late October at least another 2,000 Salvadorans followed suit, citing joblessness and gang violence.
Church and social groups have called for the government to try to address conditions that are making people vote with their feet.
In Tijuana, Mexico, meanwhile, locals were out protesting on Sunday near the US border in support of and against the mass migration in their town.
At the moment, about 2,500 Central American migrants are staying at a shelter set up in a Tijuana sports stadium.
One of the people opposed to so many migrants, was Esther Monroy, 58.
"Most of us in this are depend on business from people coming and going across the border. If they close it, it will be their fault," she said of the migrants.
"And most of them are criminals," she argued because some burst fencing on a border crossing between Guatemala and Mexico.
"If the government can’t control all this, organised crime and drug cartels will. We don’t care who does it, but they have to take responsibility for these people," added America Villa. — AFP