Veracruz – The migrants' rights caravan was welcomed over the weekend in a community in the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz that has long provided assistance to people making the long journey to the United States.
The caravan arrived in the community, located outside the city of Amatlan de los Reyes, on Saturday night aboard a freight train.
A group of the community's women, known as "Las Patronas," has been providing food and water to Central Americans passing through the Gulf state since 1995.
The caravan set off on July 24 from Guatemala City, following 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.
The caravan visited Veracruz because it has been the scene of countless extortion attempts and kidnappings targeting Central American migrants.
The community, which has about 300 residents, opened its doors to the nearly 500 migrants and activists who arrived aboard the train that plies the route taken by migrants from southern Mexico to the border.
Residents operate a canteen that serves coffee, bread, hardboiled eggs, rice and beans to migrants, who ride inside and on top of the train's cars, paying for the food out of their own pockets.
"Today, unfortunately, there are many people who pose as migrants and, unfortunately, people are judged based on what we hear, but the real migrant is grateful, and we have been doing this for 15 years and no one has offended us yet, whether you give them something or nothing, they are grateful," Las Patronas member Norma Romero Vazquez said.
The group was started when women returning from shopping saw a train roll in carrying scores of migrants and were asked for food, Romero Vazquez said.
"Then someone got the idea and we started looking for support, and now people are joining to support them. Now, every time the train comes in, we give them water and food," she said.
The women were handing out about 20 food packages at first, but they are now distributing more than 200.
"The migrants are the most respectful people I have met and they only want food, water, medicine and clothing," Romero Vazquez said.
Mexicans should unite to help the Central Americans who pass through each day trying to achieve the American dream, the woman said.
The women "are an example of helping others," caravan leader the Rev. Alejandro Solalinde 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.
An estimated 300,000 Central Americans undertake the dangerous journey across Mexico each year on their way to the United States.
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.
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.