SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (AP) — Some 500 Honduran migrants in a caravan departed Saturday before dawn from the northern city of San Pedro Sula in hopes of reaching the United States.

It was the first such group since January 2022 and was comprised of men, women and children mostly from inland and southern Honduras, where many farm workers lost their jobs due to the closure of some plantations.

“We are determined to keep going because here we are worse off. We have no jobs. We are hungry,” said Edgar Iván Hernández, a 26-year-old farm worker who was traveling with three relatives.

His cousin, Arnold Ulises Hernández, said they were encouraged to join the caravan after finding out about it on social networks. “The best way is to leave in a group because that way we are not stopped much by the police or immigration,” he said.

The vast majority of migrants cross Central America and Mexico in small groups, using all types of transportation and smuggling networks. Only a few form caravans.

The San Pedro Sula bus terminal is where migrants leave daily in buses headed north toward the U.S., but it was also the origin of the massive caravans of late 2018 and 2019.

In those years, many made it as far as the southern U.S. border. But after the pandemic the situation changed radically due to pressure from the U.S., which asked Mexico and Central American governments to increase their efforts to stop migrants headed north.

Since then, the caravans were stopped first in southern Mexico and later in Guatemalan territory.

Days before Honduran President Xiomara Castro took office in January 2022, a similar group of some 600 migrants departed from San Pedro Sula and was disbanded by Guatemalan security forces.

In 2023, there were record numbers of migrants all over the hemisphere. Arrests for illegal crossings into the U.S. from Mexico intensified by the end of year when U.S. authorities registered up to 10,000 illegal crossings over several days in December. The number dropped to 2,500 in the first days of January.

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