Christmas day meant the same as any other day for thousands of migrants walking through southern Mexico: more trudging under a hot sun.
There were no presents. Christmas Eve dinner was a sandwich, a bottle of water and a banana handed out by the Catholic church to some of the migrants in the town of Alvaro Obregon, in the southern state of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala.
Migrants spent Christmas night sleeping on a scrap of cardboard or plastic, stretched out under an awning, a tent, or on the bare ground.
In the morning, it was waking as usual at 4 a.m. to get an early start and avoid the worst of the heat, walking to the next town, Huixtla, 20 miles (30 kilometers) away.
The migrants included single adults, but also entire families, all eager to reach the U.S. border and angry and frustrated at having to wait weeks or months in the nearby city of Tapachula for documents that might allow them to continue their journey.
Mexico claims it doesn’t give out transit visas, but migrants keep hoping to get some sort of document so they can at least take buses to the border.
Mexico says it detected 680,000 migrants moving through the country in the first 11 months of 2023.
At around 6,000 people, the migrant caravan that set out Sunday was the largest one since June 2022, when a similarly sized group departed Tapachula.
This year’s Christmas caravan came a few days before U.S. officials are to meet with their Mexico counterparts in Mexico City to explore ways to stem the surge of migrants showing up at the U.S. southwest border.
The Mexican government has already said it is willing to help try to block migrants from crossing Mexico; the government had little choice, after U.S. officials briefly closed two vital Texas railway border crossings, claiming they were overwhelmed by processing migrants.
That put a chokehold on freight moving from Mexico to the United States, as well as grain needed to feed Mexican livestock moving south.
The rail crossings have since been reopened, but the message was clear.
10,000 migrants arrested per day at the U.S. border
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to arrive in Mexico City Wednesday to hammer out new agreements to control the surge of migrants seeking entry into the United States. The U.S. delegation will also include Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and White House homeland security advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall.
This month, as many as 10,000 migrants were arrested per day at the U.S. southwest border.
Arrests for illegal crossing topped 2 million in each of the U.S. government’s last two fiscal years, reflecting technological changes that have made it easier for migrants to leave home to escape poverty, natural disasters, political repression and organized crime.