'So happy to have him with me,' says mom of Honduran toddler who was found alone in Mexico

·2-min read

By Jose Cabezas

CABAÑAS, Honduras (Reuters) -Wilder, the 2-year-old Honduran boy found abandoned and half-naked on a secluded Mexican highway near a truck carrying migrants, was welcomed home with cake and fireworks by relatives in the poor rural town of Cabañas in western Honduras.

The toddler made international headlines when Mexican security agents found him crying alone in southern Mexico in June near the cargo truck that contained dozens of people trying to make their way to the U.S. border.

The boy, who is in good condition, was flown on Friday to the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula where he was reunited with his mother after nearly 20 days in the custody of Mexican authorities.

"Never again will I let my child go. I'm so happy to have him with me," Lorena Garcia, 23, told Reuters by phone. "Eating beans and corn, we'll get by," said Garcia, a farmer, who lives in a modest home with dirt floors.

Grandparents, uncles and cousins greeted the boy on Saturday with fireworks and a sign reading: "Welcome back Wilder."

Garcia said her husband, Noel Ladino, left with Wilder in a bid to migrate to the United States with a human smuggler. It was unclear why the father and son became separated before the boy was found by Mexican authorities.

Elated to have her son back in her arms, Garcia lamented not being able to reunite as well with her husband, who she said is detained in Mexico. "I hope he comes back to help us too," Garcia said.

The young family survived on Noel Ladino's precarious salary of 100 lempiras a day, the equivalent of $4, when he could find work, which is scarce in the area, Garcia said.

They are among the thousands of people living in Cabañas in the mountains of the Copan department of Honduras, where 94% of the inhabitants are poor, according to official data.

Hundreds of thousands of Hondurans, including families with children, have set off for the United States in recent years to escape poverty, violence and corruption. Many are turned back by Mexico or the United States.

There has been an increase this year in unaccompanied children, mainly from Central America, arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, even as President Joe Biden's administration warns migrants not to come.

(Reporting by Jose Cabezas in Cabañas, Honduras and Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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