Some 600 migrants hoping to reach the United States set off in a caravan Saturday from the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula.
Hundreds of young men, women and children, most from Nicaragua, Honduras and Cuba, had gathered overnight and early morning at the city's central bus station.
Shortly after dawn, they set out walking toward the Guatemalan border in hopes that travelling in a group would be safer or cheaper than trying to hire smugglers or trying on their own. A smaller second group soon joined.
Fabricio Ordoñez, a young Honduran laborer, said he had joined the group in hopes of "giving a new life to my family."
"The dream is to be in the United States to be able to do many things in Honduras," he said, adding he was pessimistic that left-leaning President-elect Xiomara Castro, who takes office on Jan. 27, would be able to quickly solve the Central American nation's economic and social problems after 12 years of conservative administrations plagued by scandal.
"They have looted everything," he said. "It is going to be very hard for this government to improve things."
Nicaraguan marcher Ubaldo López expressed hope that local officials would not try to hinder this group, as they have many in the past.
"We know this is a very hard road and we ask God and the Honduran government to please accompany use to the border with Guatemala and not put more roadblocks," he said.
He said he hoped that Guatemala and Mexico also would allow the group to pass and that the U.S. government "will open the doors to us" — despite repeated recent examples of regional governments, often under U.S. pressure, trying to halt such caravans.
Large numers of migrants, many from Central America and Haiti, have reached the U.S. border over the past year, creating a headache for the administration of President Joe Biden.
The U.S. Border Patrol has said it had more than 1.6 million encounters with migrants along the Mexican border between September 2020 and the same month in 2021 — more than four times the total of the previous fiscal year.
Biden has backed proposals for $7 billion in aid to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in hopes improved economic conditions will slow migration.