A caravan of Central American migrants, who had often pulled off Twitter tirades by President Donald Trump before the US election, rested and formed on Monday in a stadium that had sought protection in Mexico City before it went on.
Aiming to reach the United States, around 5,000 migrants, mostly from the violent Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, are expected to meet in Mexico City in the coming days and then continue north, the authorities said.
The first 470 arrived in Mexico City on Sunday and spent the night in a stadium in the east of the capital, where the authorities have built a large camp to house them and provide food and water.
By late Monday morning, around 2,000 people had arrived in the camp. Another 3,000 are expected to arrive on Wednesday as the fragmented caravan reformed after being dispersed into central and eastern Mexico, according to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH).
The migrants sleep in tents, on the floor or on the cement bleacher of the stadium at cold night temperatures of about 12 degrees Celsius at the height of Mexico City.
After more than 1,600 kilometers of walking, which began in the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras on October 13, many suffered from colds or mutilated feet.
"I could not sleep, I was cold all night and coughed," said 23-year-old Karla Membreno from Honduras, who is taking the hike with her husband and brother-in-law.
"But we have to be strong, God gives us the strength to keep going," she told AFP.
The medical staff looked after migrants and administered flu shots in improvised clinics in the stadium.
Other migrants were busy digging through large piles of donated clothing, looking for coats, gloves, or other items to ward off the cold.
– Nearly 5,000 border troops –
According to CNDH, there are currently two other large groups of Central Americans with a total of 3,000 to 4,000 migrants in the southern Mexican states of Chiapas and Oaxaca.
Another 3,230 Central Americans traveling on a caravan applied for asylum in Mexico, according to the Home Office.
Trump has made immigration a key issue ahead of Tuesday's mid-term vote, which has so far been considered a referendum on his presidency.
He had called the caravan a "national emergency" and had ordered 4,800 troops to the border on Monday threatening to station up to 15,000 troops.
He also claimed that the caravan, which is located about 1000 kilometers from the border, includes members of the violent street gang MS-13 and "unknown mediator".
The CNDH denied, however, that there was evidence of any criminals or persons who could pose a security risk in the caravan.
"About 75 percent of them are women, children, the elderly and other vulnerable people, the rest are mostly young men with their families, few travel alone," said Gustavo Rodriguez Zarate, head of the migration support programs of the Catholic Archdiocese of Puebla.
He said the migrants would travel together to protect themselves from the many dangers on the journey. Mexican gangs regularly blackmail, kidnap or kill Central Americans trying to reach the United States.
"They are urged not to break groups of less than 50 people because they are at an increased risk of being targeted by criminals," Zarate said.
Many of the migrants flee poverty and insecurity in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, the so-called "Northern Triangle" in Central America, where powerful street gangs rule their lawns with brutal force.
You are still not sure which route you will take when and how.
"When the rest of the caravan is here, we'll talk about what to do," said Teresa Estrada, a 23-year-old Guatemalan.
With the goal of reaching the United States, it is anticipated that some 5,000 migrants, mostly from the violent Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, will converge in Mexico City in the coming days, and then continue their northward migration
The route of three immigrant caravans to northern Mexico and the United States.
The migrants sleep in tents, on the floor or on the cement bleacher of the stadium at cold night temperatures of about 12 degrees Celsius at the height of Mexico City
By late Monday morning, around 2,000 people had arrived in the camp; Another 3,000 are expected to arrive on Wednesday as the fragmented caravan reformed after being dispersed into central and eastern Mexico
Many of the migrants are fleeing poverty and insecurity in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, the so-called "Northern Triangle" in Central America