LOS INDIOS, Texas – As thousands of Central American migrants are on either sides of U.S.-Mexican border before they head to destinations all over the United States, hundreds of their fellow countrymen are waiting to go south.
These are not the adults and unaccompanied youngsters making today’s headlines but transient visitors crossing into Mexico’s territory from across Los Indios, Texas, to Tapachula, a Mexican city near the Guatemalan border.
Known as transmigrants, these travelers are stranded today on FM 509 until the U.S. and Mexican give them the go ahead to go south.
Vehicles of all different makes and models can be seen over a 5-mile stretch of the highway from FM 800 to the Free Trade International Bridge, or the last stop before they cross into Mexico.
They included mostly Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai and Kia cars, trucks and SUVs, many of which are either dented or with engine problems and taken to body and mechanic shops in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize.
Other drivers are also taking eighteen wheelers, buses and trucks hauling from a half to a dozen vehicles. A couple of boats and heavy machinery were being towed as well.
The drivers’ frustration was evident on Friday as many of them were forming clusters to talk about the situation they are facing.
“I left Wisconsin last Saturday (March 21),” Jose Till said. “I got here this Tuesday and won’t probably leave until next week.”
He said he is going to Belize to deliver two vehicles, one of which Till said it will be for spare parts.
His situation is the same as the many others who are now stranded on the side of FM 509 until they are told to go in groups of 50 to 100 vehicles.
Many interviewed on Friday said they get paid to drive the vehicles from cities from all over the United States to those Central American countries.
A few said they were to Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Jovanis Sanchez, of Guatemala, said he left Houston on Sunday and has been on the farm-to-market road since Monday.
“I have been doing this job for the last thirty years,” he said, “but I have never run into something like this.”
Sanchez he usually makes the trips twice a year, adding this is his first since the pandemic was declared in March 2020.
He as well as the others drive a vehicle and haul another one because when the fee for all the paperwork required to take the vehicle into Mexico counts the two as one vehicles.
Currently the price charged by about the half dozen of businesses operating along Military Highway 281, called Transmigrant Agencies, is $550 for the two vehicles and $1,100 for larger rigs.
Victor Garza, who works for a business called Transmigrates Aguilas, said those are the rates they charge today.
He said part of the problem behind the backup of vehicles going south, is because the system at the Mexican Customs Office, or aduana, was down on Monday and Tuesday.
An employee with Transmigrantes Manny’s puts the blame on the upcoming Holy Week, or Semana Santa.
But the transmigrants said this is not the time of year for them to travel in such huge numbers like during the month of December.
Agustin Ronoca, of Guatemala, said he has never seen a day like today in the 30-plus years he has been talking vehicles to the Central American country.
The transmigrants said they have been sleeping in their vehicles and walking to grab something to eat at the nearest convenience store at FM 509 and Military or U.S. Highway 281.
German Gonzalez said he left Los Angeles a week ago this Friday.
“I have been here on this road for a week now,” he said. “If I am lucky, I will leave Monday or Tuesday.”
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