For many migrants trekking to the US, faith is their compass

A migrant is shown wrapped with a banner depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe in front of a riot police with shield in Tijuana, Mexico.

Since setting out from Honduras in the hope of reaching the United States, Nicolas Alonso Sanchez has worn a simple wooden cross around his neck, a quiet reminder of the Roman Catholic faith that propels him forward.

A close-up photography of Nicolas Alonso Sanchez holding his wooden cross.
Nicolas Alonso Sanchez holds his cross.Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

“God gave me the strength to get all the way here,” Sanchez, 47, says at a temporary shelter where he is staying in the Mexican border city of Tijuana.

On the long journey from Central America to US soil, many migrants have taken solace in their religion.

Migrants are shown with their hands raised in the air praying on a bus.
Migrants pray before moving by buses to a new shelter.Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

Several groups of mostly Honduran migrants who made the trek this year faced arduous conditions, braving fierce heat by day and searching for a safe place to sleep at night.

Many regard their faith as their compass.

Pastor Jose Murcia is shown with his hands on two people's heads preaching.
Pastor Jose Murcia preaches.Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

For migrants far from home, the street often becomes their place of worship. On a warm afternoon in late November, pastor Jose Murcia, a Salvadoran who lives in the United States, preaches outside a temporary shelter in Tijuana to a cluster of men.

Later, Murcia joins a pair of men kneeling in the middle of the road, their heads bowed in prayer.

Herso is shown wearing a red t-shirt depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Herso, 17, from Honduras, wears a t-shirt depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe.Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

On their way to the US border, the migrants walked the length of Mexico. Here, the Virgin of Guadalupe — an image of the Virgin Mary who devotees believe appeared to an indigenous man in the 16th century — looms large. As if seeking her protection, a man drapes himself with a banner depicting her as he crouches before a phalanx of riot police in Tijuana.

Juan Francisco is shown lifting his white shirt up to reveal a large tattoo of the 23rd Psalm of the Book of Psalms written out.
Juan Francisco, 25, from Honduras, shows his tattoo of the 23rd Psalm of the Book of Psalms.

The migrants face a future of uncertainty. The United States said this month that many asylum seekers may be forced to stay in Mexico while their claims are processed. Some Mexican border towns are perilous places to wait, plagued with crime and violence.

A group of migrants are shown crowded together outside praying in Metapa.
Migrants pray as they are blocked by the Mexican police during an operation to detain them for entering the country, in Metapa.

But many migrants, bolstered by their faith, say they are undaunted.

“God always takes care of me,” says Osmel Efraim, an 18-year-old Honduran migrant in Tijuana. “Thanks to God, I am here, safe and healthy.”

By Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

In this close-up photograph, Victor Alfonso in a blue button down shirt, wears charms depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Victor Alfonso, 29, from Guatemala, wears charms depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Reporting by Alkis Konstantinidis, Writing by Julia Love, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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