SAN SALVADOR — As the sun rose on the Salvador del Mundo monument in San Salvador, dozens of would-be migrants with small backpacks and duffel bags trickled into the central plaza. They settled on benches and stairs to await instructions.
Within an hour, at least 100 had gathered. By 8 a.m., about 300 — all of them responding to the same WhatsApp group message about when and where to meet. From the far corner of the plaza, a voice called out “Let’s go,” jolting the group into action.
Within moments, all the migrants had stood up, gathered their belongings, and walked through the plaza, across the street and past a gas station — their first steps in a potential 1,600-mile journey to the United States.
The group, which left San Salvador on Wednesday, became part of at least the fourth Central American caravan to form since mid-October, when one left San Pedro Sula in Honduras and headed north.
Caravans were once used sparingly to spotlight a particular problem. A group of Central American mothers, for example, has traveled through Mexico each year for 14 years searching for their sons and daughters who disappeared on the migrant trail. The Mesoamerican Caravan for a Good Lifehas organized migrant caravans for years, including one in March that gained international attention.
But experts now predict that caravan-style treks could become a more frequent scene along the decades-old migration routes from the region.
Part of the reason could be the attention given to the caravans by U.S. political races. This year’s caravans have coincided with the U.S. midterm election and President Trump’s attempts to portray the migrants as a threat that requires military mobilization at the southern border.