Q REPORTS (La Lima, Honduras) Emerson sells bananas on the edge of a dusty street in La Lima, northern Honduras, but hopes to stop doing so soon and migrate to the United States. He believes that President-elect Joe Biden will let him get through.
After two hurricanes damaged his home and his school closed due to the pandemic, the 18-year-old believes there is not much to do around here anymore.
“We hope that it will change, that it will benefit us” the departure of Donald Trump and the arrival of Biden, on January 20, says Emerson López from the Buen Samaritano neighborhood, on the outskirts of La Lima, 180 km north of Tegucigalpa and adjacent to San Pedro Sula, the starting point of other migrant caravans that have tried to reach the United States since 2018.
Following the restrictive policies of the outgoing Trump administration, many of the roughly 9.5 million people in Honduras believe that roads are now being opened. A new caravan of migrants was called for January 15.
“If they arrive well, most of us here are going to make the decision to leave later,” adds Emerson.
La Lima, with 90,000 inhabitants, shows signs of the destruction left by Eta and Iota in November. The floods caused reached Buen Samaritano, as did several communities in the productive Sula Valley, the heart of the country’s economy.
Tropical storms and the closure by covid-19 in 2020 cost Honduras, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, about US$5 billion dollars, according to government calculations, about a fifth of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The banana crops in the surroundings of La Lima were devastated.
Emerson, his parents and four younger siblings, were left homeless. And with no school, closed by the coronavirus, he lost hope of graduating in computer science.
With this outlook, “I would have to make the decision to leave, how am I going to get a job without experience and not old enough?” he says.
Martha Saldívar, a neighbor of Emerson, is also getting ready to migrate to the United States.
“It has been heard that Biden is going to remove the wall (that Trump ordered to build on the border with Mexico) and we will have to struggle to get there,” says the 51-year-old woman, in front of her home, still surrounded by rubble. and without a piece of its roof.
Since December, calls for the “Caravan January 15, 2021” abound in social networks, which plans to leave the city of San Pedro Sula and gradually add Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Mexicans attracted by the “American dream.”
Many Hondurans want to be part of the more than one million compatriots living abroad – most in the United States -, a powerful resource for the country, which in 2020 received from them the record of almost US$6 billion in remittances, more than 20% of GDP.
Remittances represent 14% of the GDP of Guatemala and 16% in El Salvador.
But Esteban Rosales, pastor of a Pentecostal temple in the area affected by the floods, tries to convince them to stay.
“Members of the church have considered leaving. You, as a pastor, motivate them so that no, the fight continues. God allowed us to stay alive so that we could move on,” he says.
Obstacles to the dream
Since October 2018, more than a dozen caravans have departed from Honduras, at least four of them made up of up to 3,000 people. But they have collided with immigration controls at the US border, and are increasingly being held back by the Mexican and Guatemalan authorities.
The Government of Guatemala has warned that foreigners who enter its territory will have to present a negative test of covid-19 and their documents in order.
Meanwhile, the Mexican consulate in San Pedro Sula assured that his government “does not promote, nor will it allow the irregular entry of caravans of migrants.”
As a reminder of the difficulties, several flights with deportees arrive weekly, although their number decreased last year due to the pandemic.
But Cecilia Arévalo, 54, who has lived in California for two decades and recently returned to visit relatives on the outskirts of San Salvador, hopes that “with Biden the immigration laws in the United States will change and become more humane.”
Some 15 km to the south, in Santo Tomás, Cristian Panameño shares the optimism.
“I think that with this new president, things will change for a migrant who arrives without papers, because with Trump we are screwed,” says the 42-year-old mechanic, who after being deported has saved up to try to migrate for the second time.
“If I arrive in the United States, I aspire to be given a chance to work.”