ARRIAGA, Mexico — Kenia Yoselin Gutierrez had long thought about migrating from her native Honduras to the United States, but stories of others who made the trip scared her off: migrants being raped or disappearing, children stolen.

When she heard about the caravan that has now grown into several thousand people traveling through southern Mexico, she saw her chance. Her 5-year-old daughter, sister and niece joined her. “It’s not so easy to walk this road alone and with children,” the 23-year-old said in the southern Mexican town of Pijijiapan. “But while we are accompanied like this, it’s not so dangerous.”

The tropical sun may be hot, the road long and Mexican authorities unhelpful and even harassing, but many in the caravan say traveling in a large group helps safeguard them from the dangers that plague the trail northward.

It’s also a relatively inexpensive way to make the trip, as intensified U.S. efforts to seal the border have driven the price smugglers charge as high as $12,000 – a sum those fleeing poverty and violence can ill afford.

The reasons for leaving their countries depend largely on individual circumstances, but migrants like Gutierrez are most often fleeing violence and poverty. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported recently that poverty and lack of opportunity are the major forces behind the latest migration. Per-capita income in Nicaragua is $185 a month and a quarter of Nicaraguans live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

But violence is a perennial issue for the migrants. Murder rates in Central America’s Northern Triangle – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – remain among the world’s highest, although they have trended downward in recent years.

A report from Doctors Without Borders says that citizens from these countries “are murdered with impunity, kidnappings and extortion are daily occurrences. Non-state actors perpetuate insecurity and forcibly recruit individuals into their ranks, and use sexual violence as a tool of intimidation and control.”

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