ISLA, Mexico – They fall asleep on borrowed blankets curled up on a floor someone has borrowed for the night. They share meals with chicken soup and tortillas. They wash clothes in rivers or sinks, and when they get sick on the street after more than 20 days, people in the caravan turn to the nuns, who follow them with medicines and bandages.
With 4,000 to 5,000 inhabitants, the first and largest group to slowly trudge to the US border is larger than some of the communities in Mexico where it settled and doubles its population overnight. They are fugitive guests, a congregation that has only one goal: to seek asylum or to work in the United States.
"It's practically a wandering city," said Edgar Corzo Sosa, a national human rights officer in Mexico who oversees the caravan. Speaking this weekend, the group traveled through the southern state of Veracruz, several hundred miles southeast of Mexico City.
As in every city, the caravan had milestones and tragedies. Babies were born, one man died after being overturned by a crowded truck, and several women had miscarriages, including the Red Cross of Mexico and civil rights officers. The migrants gather together at dawn, travel in groups of families or friends from the same hometown, and hold nightly meetings to decide where to go next.
It may be a fragile alliance frayed with exhaustion and uncertainty – and they had hoped that it would be over by now as buses drove them to Mexico City and then north to the US border. But the buses never came.
On Sunday, the caravan had split into groups as faster travelers hit the track and jumped onto the track. At sunrise, more than 1,500 left the small town of Isla and headed to Cordoba, also in Veracruz, but closer to the capital, while others in the neighboring state of Puebla and other cities had scattered along the way.
Most migrants come from criminal Honduras, where the caravan hastily assembled in mid-October, when people took the chance to travel safely through Mexico without having to pay thousands of dollars to smugglers. Some have since turned around. Others have sought asylum in Mexico.
Others have left until their shoes fall down the long, hot road.
Their movements are coordinated by megaphone members of the US-Mexican activist collective Pueblo Sin Fronteras, although the organizers say the caravan ruled. But crowds also depend on Mexican cities and towns offering community centers where they can sleep, and church groups ready to beat up Tamales and have a barbecue in the middle of the night.
President Trump portrayed the caravan – and others behind it – as "very bad thugs and gang members." She noted that on October 19, thousands of migrants had pushed through a Guatemalan border gate to Mexico. His allegations have been fueled by misleading images on the Internet, including a bloody Mexican police officer who was picked up in 2012 elsewhere.
Trump has ordered thousands of troops to the southern border and said he would consider sending up to 15,000 – about as large as the presence of the US military in Afghanistan.
In Mexico, human rights observers tell the police and government that they have not seen examples of terrorists or extreme violence.
"He can say a thousand things," Corzo Sosa said about Trump's claim about bad actors. "We are here in the caravan. , , , We did not identify any. "
On Friday, shortly after they entered the state of Veracruz, breathtaking beaches and deadly violence drenched with rain rejoiced at rainy migrants when Governor Miguel Angel Yunes said he would take buses to Mexico City.
Yunes quickly changed his mind, pointing to a water shortage in the capital. Critics claimed he was pressured to avoid a US frontier clash on Tuesday's US election.
Depressed, the next day the migrants headed north on bubbling feet and took a narrow street band, an organizer said, it was a frequent place of robberies and attacks, calling it the "way of death".
Pueblo Sin Fronteras urged her to hold together. But some threw themselves on tractor-trailers, pushed into the open doors or clung to the sides.
Oscar Lopez, 31, leaned back with his wife and three children, including three-year-old Elias, who was sitting in a stroller wearing blue crocs adorned with race cars.
"That's dangerous," said Lopez, 31, shaking his head while others got into the car. In the turmoil of the caravan his twelve-year-old son had been missing for 33 hours, he said, and he was unwilling to risk it again.
As they waited for safer rides, Our Lady of the Rosary Church's food brigade stormed.
The night before, young church priest Joel Campechano had informed his community about WhatsApp that the caravan was coming. The following day, parishioners served homemade tamales, pots of rice and tortillas.
One of the volunteers was Marta Murgia, 43, wearing a pink apron with a picture of Jesus. "I wonder what's waiting for her," she said of the passing families.
The Avaloses, Lopezes, and Contrerases, including a feverish baby called Aaron, whose mother Nataly lowered the temperature on the roadside with drug and bottled water baths, walked down the street. Entire hometowns were grouped like the quota from Siguatepeque, a mountain town in Honduras.
Without buses it became clear that the journey would take much longer than they had hoped, and some people had a different route. A young man said he would notify a friend of a smuggler who told him that it would cost $ 7,500 to cross the US border.
Some jumped in taxis. But many stayed and said it was cheaper to travel together.
After the 44-mile drive from Sayula to Isla, the brothers Arnulfo and Arnoldo Gomez stopped at a gas station to conduct an inventory. They had no money. Her cell phones were dead. Arnoldo, 30, six years older than his brother, wore plastic sandals because his boot soles had fallen off.
Arnoldo Gomez, who left a wife and two children in Tocoa, Honduras, said several women had offered to accept him. He refused to let his brother and the friends he had met on the street.
"These are the temptations," he said.
"We have to stay together," said Jose Guillen, 22, near his new friend Alejandro Carvajal, an 18-year-old singer. They traveled with a group from San Pedro Sula.
At a stop between Isla and Córdoba, Orlando Rodas Martinez, a 22-year-old organizer of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, advised people not to separate and trample.
"Compañeros, we can not go that far," he told a group. "If there are only a few, it will be easier for the authorities to visit you."
"Some say one thing, others say something else," one man said and answered.
On Saturday night, the remaining migrants seized Islam's heavy social center and poured into the streets outside.
Within the social center reserved for weddings and dances, the caravan has been transformed into a small village. Families and migrants slept on mattresses and wooden pallets from ceiling to ceiling. Others opened tents. Laundry was strung by bars.
Maynor Chavez, a 44-year-old father from Copan, set up a yellow tarp and sold shampoo, lollipops and cigarettes, which he had bought with money he had brought along.
In Venustiano Carranza Street, residents with houses still decorated for the Day of the Dead allow migrants to sleep or shower on their terraces. The air filled with the sounds of barking dogs and crying children.
Hours later they were gone.