After an image of 12-year-old Mario David Castellanos went viral, we learned that the young Honduran boy left his home without telling his parents. Looking for better opportunities and ways to help his family, Mario joined the caravan in Honduras. His worried parents spoke to media and asked God to watch over him. In the week or so since his story went viral and Mexican authorities arrested him in Tapachula, Chiapas, Mario’s parents do not know the whereabouts of their son.

In an interview with Telemundo, his parents asked authorities to release him. “He’s innocent,” Mario’s dad, José Mario Castellanos, said through tears. “What I want to tell authorities is to free him and to send him back to Honduras.” Authorities didn’t provide any more information when Telemundo inquired about Mario David.

Central Americans – many of whom are fleeing gang violence and poverty – have previously traveled by caravans. Traveling in large numbers makes the long, perilous journey safer for them as they are often the victims of xenophobic attacks in Central America. However, the current caravan is still unprecedented.

“It’s an exodus, a crisis that wasn’t born with this caravan. It’s been here for years,” said Rodrigo Abeja of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, which has helped organize caravans in the past. “This is the biggest caravan in the history of caravans. For the first time, a caravan didn’t need to be organized by NGOs, such as Frontera Sur. They organized themselves and decided to leave their countries, their communities.”

And much like Mario David, other young Hondurans left because they wanted a different future. Scarlet, 16, Karina, 20, and Elvin, 16 all left the Central American country on their own. “News of the caravan was all over our social media, so we just decided to go,” they told Teen Vogue. “We want to know another way of life. There are opportunities in the United States. There’s no money [here] We all try and work and it’s never enough. We want to find a way to study. I don’t need to be anything fancy or anyone important, but I want to make enough to help my family and to, just be. Honduras is a killer – there’s no work, possibilities, hope. Lots of violence.”