Just our backpacks and God: Understanding the migrant crisis in Honduras
WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - Migrant caravans from Honduras triggered the latest nationwide focus on America's southern border. Inside Your World wanted to investigate why so many are willing to endure a grueling, thousand-mile journey from Central America? What are they getting away from? We traveled to the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras where the migrant caravans began to try to find out.
It is midnight in San Pedro Sula and the city's bus station is bustling with activity. This is where the recent caravans all began. Everyone we met was heading north. And some admitted that the ultimate goal was to make it to the United States.
This is the reason I'm leaving," this man said as he held a photograph of his family.
He's trying to make it to the United States he told us, because low wages here make it impossible to support his young family.
Another man told us his tattoos make him a target for gangs, so his only choice is to leave.
Honduras is one of the poorest and most violent countries in Central America, surrounded by Spanish speaking nations with stronger economies. Panama and Costa Rica have had generous asylum policies and, to the north, Guatemala and Mexico have been open to migrants in recent years.
Despite that, many still choose the 1600-mile trek to America.
"It has been drilled into our heads,” Honduran photojournalist Tomas Ayuso told us. “The U.S. is the best nation in the history of the world, so why wouldn't anyone who's trying to save their life go to the best place?"
Ayuso has been documenting this flight for four years.
"It is an exodus, he said. At some point only biblical terms come to mind when you talk about it."
His project is entitled "The Right to Grow Old."
"These are the feet of a 15-year-old boy who walked through Mexico in flip-flops as he was trying to get away,” he said as he showed us a photograph. The feet were battered and worn.
There is poverty, violence and corruption here, but some argue in the last few years there has also been change.
American Pastor Steven Petty believes staying in Honduras is a better option.
"I tell them don't. Don't go. It's not worth it. What you're doing is breaking up your family. That's what's hurting Honduras right now by all these people leaving, unless they leave as a family, but they don't,” Petty said.
17-year-old Axel and his 14-year-old girlfriend were leaving the day we met them. The gang was recruiting him, and he said no. An answer that he says will get him killed.
We asked Axel if they were prepared for the long, difficult journey to the United States.
"Yes,” he replied. “It'd be better for us to make that difficult journey many times than staying here and losing our lives, he told us."
His girlfriend said she worried most about the possibility they could die along the way.
We watched as they zipped up their worldly possessions into two small backpacks, said their final goodbyes, and walked off to an uncertain future.
Axel's mother watched as tears streamed down her face.
"I think about all of the dangers that they're going to have to face along the way,” she told us. “And I don't know when I'll see them again."
Axel told us all they have now is each other, what's in their backpacks and God.