Wilmer Rodriguez’s mother, Lesly Madariaga, spent a sleepless night looking for him on the streets of Nueva Suyapa, a poor neighborhood in the hills surrounding the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa.
However, she had no luck: Like thousands of other young Hondurans trying to reach the US in search of work, Rodriguez and a friend had stolen away in secret.
It was February last year, but a month later he was back home. Rodriguez, then 17, only got to Mexico before he was picked up by the authorities and returned to Honduras.
“I want to go again. I still have the desire and it won’t leave my head until I pull it off,” Rodriguez said. “If they catch me one, two, three, four, five times again, I’ll still keep trying because my dream is to support my family.”
In a country experiencing deep economic woes and rampant violence, and where more than half of the population of 10 million people lives in poverty, thousands expose themselves to the many risks of migration, not least from human traffickers and extortionists.
The trip can be a costly and fruitless exercise.
A report showed that Central American migrants spend about US$2.2 billion per year trying to reach the US, most of which is paid to traffickers.
About 50,000 Honduran migrants have so far this year been sent back home, official figures showed.
Hondurans are to head to the polls on Sunday to elect a successor to President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
After 12 years of the Nationalist Party, some see in former Honduran first lady Xiomara Castro an opportunity for change.
However, not Rodriguez — his dream remains resolute.
“I don’t have much faith in politicians because the truth is, they’re all liars,” the 18-year-old said.
He puts his faith in his ability to become “one of the great” barbers of the world — in the US.
Upon his return to Honduras, Rodriguez trained to cut hair and is now employed at his neighborhood’s La Bendicion salon.
At the salon, the barber capes feature the US stars and stripes — if ever Rodriguez needed more encouragement.
He has not told his mother as much, but she suspects that he still wants to reach the US.
“I wouldn’t want to go through that process again,” she said. “I wouldn’t want him to run that risk.”
She believes “God always provides food,” but knows that today’s dreamers want more.
“The youngsters leave for a better life because there is no work here in Honduras,” she said.
Rodriguez’s house measures no more than 20m2, but a dozen family members are crammed into its two rooms.
In the bedroom, blankets provide makeshift dividing walls. Rodriguez sleeps atop a bunk bed, his mother and sister below. He earns money now, but not enough.
“It’s something, but just for me — not to support 12 people,” he said.
Rodriguez said that young people in the neighborhood are attracted to crime and “easy things,” such as selling drugs, although he has always resisted.
“My goal is to work... My house is my goal too. I know that one day I will build it,” Rodriguez said.
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