It’s become more difficult to predict the path of the Caravan since it left Mexico City. News reports are unreliable, plans change and there are break-off groups. I went to Irapuato on Saturday after hearing various reports — The migrants were headed there. The migrants were not headed there. The migrants were headed there but only in small numbers.
After a two hour drive from San Miguel, I arrived at the Irapuato encampment, a small park in a poor residential neighborhood. There is a tortilla maker across the street next to a taco stand, and a Walmart superstore a few blocks down the road. About 150 people were resting under trees or inside the park’s community center, which felt metal like an airplane hangar.
The encampment was quiet and peaceful. Protection professionals from the State of Guanajuato were distributing sandwiches and bedding. One of them told me “Perhaps it is good that the groups are smaller now. It allows government to help below the radar. You know what I mean.” He almost cried when he said they didn’t have any milk for the children. So I hopped a cab and returned with a dozen cases of milk and 50 pounds of bananas, which the volunteers agreed would be distributed to children. What was left from the afternoon meal could be stashed in back packs for the next day’s journey.
The idea that there would be extra milk turned out to be a miscalculation. When I returned to the encampment on Sunday morning, thousands of Caravan members had arrived, among them, hundreds of children. Long lines at the food distribution tent. A sea of mats inside the community center. The porta-potties now floating in a pool of brown muck. The parking lot and street were full of cars, trucks, police vehicles and young men chatting in small groups.
By now, I accept that I have failed in my campaign to get god to tell well-meaning people to stop feeding Caravan members white bread and “juice” boxes of sugar water. So I arrived on Sunday with 600 servings of the most amazing pollo asada. As a vegetarian, this assault on innocent lives created some internal conflict for me. I got over it. The kids were thrilled and so were their parents. (And a shout out here to Sally Lieber, former member of the California Assembly for the 22nd District, for raising the funds for these purchases!)
As the sun went down, the people with kids were settling down in the plane hangar and the young men outside used the opportunity to enjoy each other. I went to Walmart with some Caritas volunteers to buy 20 more cases of milk. I asked Martin whether it would be served with other breakfast foods. “No,” he said. “there is no food for breakfast.”
Breakfast or no breakfast, this morning they were up and out, enthusiastic to be on their way. Whatever god is, god help them.
Univision posted this video of the Caravan leaving Irapuato this morning. It gives a sense of the numbers and how incredibly civilized these stressed-out people remain. Don’t miss the moment of triumph at 2:00.