When I first met Mr. Arias, something extraordinary was happening.
Venezuelans in never-before-seen numbers had given up on their country, an economic basket case, and were heading north. By the end of that year, more than 150,000 of them had arrived at the border between Mexico and the United States.
Mr. Arias, 27, was traveling not just with his daughter, who was on his shoulders much of the time, but with his wife, Desyree, and 7-year-old son, Luis Breyner. His mother-in-law and brother-in-law were also with them.
It was still early in the morning when I took this photo. A long day of travel lay ahead of the family, and more long days after that. A strong hiker might make the end of the Gap in four or five days. For travelers with young children, it could easily be double that.
But Mr. Arias had a more immediate problem: a hill. When he came to it, he just stopped, put down his pack, and sat. It was not clear if he could go on, but after about 15 minutes, he did.
Later, he told me that back in Venezuela, he studied industrial mechanics and worked at his father’s auto repair shop. He and his wife also had a food stall. But struggling to feed their family, they decided to try their luck elsewhere.
In 2019, they went to Colombia, where they opened another food stall and Mr. Arias also drove a motorcycle taxi and did some construction. But again it was not enough. It was time to move again.
As we made our way through the Gap, I saw the family from time to time, but eventually our ways parted. Later, as they crossed Central America, we kept in touch through social media. In mid-March, I heard from them again: They had just made into the U.S., applying for asylum as they crossed through border control in Texas in March.
Their journey had taken months more after I last saw them in September. At one point, bandits took everything from them, even the children’s candy. Melissa celebrated her fifth birthday in Guatemala, where they were stuck for months.