Central American migrants trek north to seek a better life

1 / 9

A Picture and its Story: Central American migrants trek north to seek a better life

Luis Acosta holds 5-year-old Angel Jesus, both from Honduras, as a caravan of migrants from Central America en route to the United States crossed through the Suchiate River into Mexico from Guatemala in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, October 29, 2018. Adrees Latif: "For the past nine days, I had been following a caravan of over 7,000 migrants from Central America who were making their way north after crossing the Guatemala-Mexico border. Instead of trying to attempt another gate crossing, the migrants had moved towards the Suchiate River to try to cross. Most of the migrants had already made it to the Mexican side of the river and were resting and drying their clothes along the bank. In the river, dozens of migrant men had locked arms to make a snake-like human cordon from the Guatemalan side to Mexico, so no-one would get swept by its powerful pull. With one camera in hand and a 35 mm lens, I broke into the cordon to photograph the last group of migrants crossing. A family that had made it to the middle of the river was handing their children to other men to help them reach the shore. As a man grabbed the girl in front of me, I followed him, photographing, as he carried her to safety. Moments later, the last set of migrants crossed, and the men who had locked hands in the cordon all swam towards Mexico and started celebrating that the caravan had made it. This photograph begs the question: why would a family leave home and not only risk their own lives but also the lives of their children by doing such extraordinary things? What propels someone to walk without knowing where they will next break bread or quench their thirst? It also reminds me of the poem "Home" by Warsan Shire that starts: "No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark." REUTERS/Adrees Latif/File photo

TECUN UMAN, Guatemala (Reuters) - Cradling a baby in his arms, the Central American man looks up fearfully as he scrambles away from a wall of Mexican police in riot gear.

Thousands of migrants, mostly Hondurans fleeing poverty and violence, have been traveling in a caravan towards the United States in recent weeks. On Oct. 19, some of them rushed through Guatemalan border gates onto a long bridge connecting to Mexico. But the surge was halted by Mexican federal police.

Reuters photographer Ueslei Marcelino was on the bridge and captured the picture of the man with the child.

"The migrants had already broken through the first police barricade on the Guatemalan side of the bridge. After a while, they moved towards the second barricade on the Mexican side," said Marcelino.

"Suddenly women and children formed a line and started to walk towards the police. There was a bit of pushing and shoving, and then things started to get increasingly chaotic."

Eventually, Mexican police pushed the migrants back to the Guatemalan side.

Many of the migrants spent that night on the bridge, while hundreds of others eventually chose to jump into the Suchiate River below in a bid to reach Mexican soil. Within a few days, as many as 10,000 migrants had entered Mexico, caravan members said.

When Reuters photographer Leah Mills saw migrants jumping into the river from the Guatemalan side, she waded in and captured an image of an exhausted-looking man carrying a child.

"To me this shows how desperate these people are. They are willing to cross rivers with strong currents, to lose any belongings they had, to struggle through the water with their children."

Reuters photographer Adrees Latif saw a human cordon being formed in the river by migrant men, locking arms to make sure no-one was swept away.

"A family that had made it to the middle of the river was handing their children to other men to help them reach the shore," he said.

As a man grabbed the girl in front of him and took her to safety, Latif followed.

"This photograph begs the question: why would a family leave home and not only risk their own lives but also the lives of their children by doing such extraordinary things? What propels someone to walk without knowing where they will next break bread or quench their thirst?"

Photo Essay https://reut.rs/2SWacua



(Reporting by Ueslei Marcelino, Leah Mills and Adrees Latif; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)