Hundreds of Central American activists set off over the weekend from Guatemala City on a caravan that will follow the route taken by migrants pursuing the "American dream."

The caravan, which was organized by the Mesoamerican Migrants Movement, includes relatives of migrants who have died or disappeared while on their way to the United States.

Activists from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, where an average of 1,500 migrants leave each day on the long journey to the United States, joined the caravan on Sunday.

The caravan will follow the route taken by migrants and travel to Mexico City, where activists plan to ask Mexican officials to guarantee the rights of migrants, organizers said.

The activists' goal is to learn about the dangers and struggles faced by migrants, gaining an awareness of the violence, corruption and abuses to which they are subjected by criminals and authorities, organizers told Efe.

Cristina Perez said she joined the caravan to demand that action be taken to find her son, Luis, a Guatemalan migrant who disappeared in January while trying to reach the United States.

Thousands of migrants, both Mexicans and foreigners, try to enter the United States each year via land routes from Mexico.

The trek is a dangerous one, with criminals and corrupt Mexican officials preying on the migrants.

Gangs kidnap, exploit and murder migrants, who are often targeted in extortion schemes, Mexican officials say.

Gunmen working for the Los Zetas drug cartel massacred 72 migrants, the majority of them Central Americans, at a ranch in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, last August.

The caravan's goal is to "halt and reveal the undeniable reality of the kidnappings of migrants who are in transit through Mexico," especially the states of Tabasco, Veracruz and Tamaulipas, organizers said in a statement.

The first group of caravan members headed to San Marcos, a province on the border with Mexico, accompanied by Catholic Church representatives and Guatemalan human rights officials.

The caravan will cross the Suchiate River, which separates the two countries, riding in the types of flimsy rafts that migrants use to enter Mexico.

The activists plan to travel through the Mexican states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Veracruz by bus, heading to Mexico City later in their journey.

The second group of activists will travel to El Ceibo, which is on the border with Mexico's Tabasco state, boarding "The Beast," the train used by migrants, in Tenosique and heading to Veracruz.

An estimated 300,000 Central Americans undertake the dangerous journey across Mexico each year on their way to the United States.

Central American migrants follow a long route that takes them into Chiapas state, which is on the border with Guatemala, walking part of the way or riding aboard freight trains, buses and cargo trucks.

The flow of migrants has increased markedly in the northern and northeastern parts of Mexico since U.S. officials increased security along the border in the northwestern part of the country.

About 20,000 Central Americans were kidnapped by organized crime groups, which extorted money from them or forced them to join their gangs, the Mexican National Human Rights Commission, or CNDH, said in a report released last year.