Thousands of Central American migrants chose to depart Mexico City early Friday and head toward the northern city of Tijuana, opting for the longer but likely safer route to the US border, caravan organizers said.
The plan was that when the migrant delegation returned to the stadium, roughly a three-hour walk from the United Nations office, the migrants would gather in an assembly to decide when they would leave Mexico City and what route they would take to the U.S. border.
Mexico City is itself more than 600 miles from the nearest USA border crossing at McAllen, Texas, and a previous caravan in the spring opted for a much longer route to Tijuana in the far northwest, across from San Diego.
The Central American migrants began their arduous trek toward the United States more than three weeks ago and were turned by President Donald Trump into a campaign issue in the USA midterm elections.
According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, the migrant caravan has grown considerably fragmented by Friday, with many people opting to stay for rest in Mexico City. "We have to get going; we have to get to Tijuana".
Though he was unsure how an unskilled farmworker like himself would be allowed in the United States, he had a simple dream: earn enough money to build a little house for his family back in Puerto Cortes, Honduras.
Perez is now one of roughly 4,000 migrants who plan to proceed to the city of Queretaro - a state capital 124 miles (200 kilometers) to the northwest - and then possibly to Guadalajara, Culiacan, Hermosillo and eventually Tijuana on the USA border.
Ramirez said that 90 percent of the at least 4,000 migrants remaining in Mexico City would depart before dawn Saturday and that 400 had made a decision to stay in Mexico.
Queretaro Gov. Francisco Dominguez said the migrants would stay at the Corregidora stadium in the state's capital, also called Queretaro, and that authorities were ready to host 4,000 people.
For many, it was the first time they had ever been in a metro system, and they had little knowledge of the city or the 1,740 mile (2,800 kilometre) route to Tijuana that lay ahead of them. Drug cartels and gangs operate in many parts of northern Mexico.
However, the United Nations human rights agency said its office in Mexico had filed a report with prosecutors in the central state of Puebla about two buses that migrants boarded in the last leg of the trip to Mexico City early this week, and whose whereabouts are not known.
Thousands of migrants have spent the past few days resting, receiving medical attention and debating how to proceed with their arduous trek through Central America and Mexico which began in mid-October.
A delegation of some 200 migrants marched to the UN's offices in Mexico City on Thursday, demanding the organization provide them with buses to the USA border, which is still some 600 miles (965 km) away from the caravan's current location.
Addressing the assembly in the Mexico City sports complex, organizer Walter Cuello yelled: "Five in the morning Tijuana!"
"God, please let the buses arrive, but if not we will walk", said 18-year-old single mother Delia Murillo who left her girl in Honduras because she feared for her safety on the trek.
Mexico City is more than 600 miles from the nearest US border crossing at McAllen, Texas, but the area around the Mexican border cities of Reynosa, Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo is so rife with drug gangs that the migrants consider it too unsafe to risk.
While still risky, the route to California is considered safer.
A previous caravan in the spring opted for the longer route to Tijuana in the far northwest, across from San Diego. That caravan steadily dwindled to only about 200 people by the time it reached the border. The government said 2,697 temporary visas had been issued to individuals and families to cover them while they wait for the 45-day application process for a more permanent status.
Near a major toll plaza about 19 miles (30 kilometers) north of the city, Mexico state police and human rights officials helped load men, women and children onto flatbeds and asked passing buses and trucks if they would carry migrants.
But many want to continue on toward the United States.
Many migrants say they are fleeing rampant poverty, gang violence and political instability primarily in the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, and they have now been on the road for weeks.
The caravan became a campaign issue in USA midterms election and Trump has ordered the deployment of over 5,000 military troops to the border to fend off the migrants. Trump has also threatened to make attaining asylum even more hard and to detain applicants in tent cities.