“The Hondurans aren’t bad, but their effect is ba-ad,” says Jorge. He’s driving me in his taxi from downtown Tijuana to the caravan’s rained-out encampment. “Now, I wait two hours for a job. It used to be 30 minutes. No-one comes down anymore, to the dentist, the doctor. They’re afraid the authorities will close the border again.”
He leaves me in the Zona Norte, near “Sport Unit Benito Juarez,” which sits just yards from the actual US wall. This day, drifting crowds of Hondurans still crowd the street outside and muddy spaces inside. “Take care of the green areas,” says a sign forlornly tacked to a tree. All around, the grassy areas are crammed and crushed with wet bedding, blankets, clothes, cans of frijoles, boots, polystyrene cups, plastic bottles, and hundreds of tissues, lifting and dropping in the breeze. Tijuana police cluster in masks and gloves. The fear of disease is high since the rains.
“Why are we here?” says Jose Reiner Castellanos Benabides. I have lucked out in finding him in the crowds. I can see he is respected, a natural leader these situations often throw up.
His wife Norma answers. “The second of October, when we left Honduras, my father had been shot in the head. Robbers. We are from San Pedro Sula, the murder capital of the world. That is life in Honduras.”
Jose and Norma’s kid — Jose, 5, and Enbri, 4 — are playing round a circle of men juggling a soccer ball with their feet.
I have to ask: What makes you think you can just charge through the back door of another country?
“The press makes us look evil, criminals,” says Jose. “But we come in peace. Even despite the suffering our president Orlando has brought down on us. The US has sent aid, but we never see it! People think we’re part of a conspiracy? Nobody paid us to come. I am a house painter. My friends here are mechanics, builders, plumbers. We can be useful. We came up to be useful! I hear you need workers for the jobs you don’t want to do. We’ll do them. Mr. Trump wants a bigger wall? We’ll build him a bigger wall! One so tall, no helicopters will be able to fly over it!”
Beyond the mess and the mud, the setting sun shines on the tantalizing border fence, 200 yards away. A bus taking people to drier quarters fills up and crawls off through the crowds.
Olvin Cruz, 27, brings out a note of Honduran currency, a Lempira, worth about 4 cents. On one side is Lempira himself, a war chieftan of the Lencas in the 1530s. “We are from this people,” Cruz says. He turns the note. It shows ancient Copan, with its pyramids and ball courts. “We were a great people. We ruled, we built. We had science, art. It is not good that we have come to this.”
Yards away, Susana Solis is reporting for Chiapas television. Patricia Espinosa is videoing her on her iPhone. “They are like our cousins,” says Susana. “We worry about them.”