Many Central Americans leave their home countries for better working opportunities to provide for their families and escape violence. Although they receive warnings that the journey is dangerous and life in the U.S. is not easy, they choose to embark on this arduous path.
Since 2010, I have been documenting the passage of Central American men, women and children while attempting to cross the borders from Honduras to Guatemala through Mexico and into the United States. I interviewed and photographed victims and survivors, and for the ordeal they went through, I think of many of them as heroes. Meanwhile, I have witnessed the desperation that drives a person to leave his or her family, home, and country in the hope of a better life.
This project began as a collaboration with Voces Mesomaericanas, an initiative from several different NGO’s working on migration issues in Central America and Mexico. At the onset, I arrived in Tegucigalpa, Honduras in early September 2010, where I met different associations and people working on migration related issues. From Tegucigalpa, I traveled to Cedros, a rural municipality in central Honduras, north west to San Pedro Sula, a town closer to Guatemala. Then I went to Ocotepeque, which borders Guatemala, where I saw migrants crossing the Mexican border to Guatemala or being deported.
From here, I traveled to Guatemala City, where I visited a migrant shelter and other associations who work closely with migrants. After that, I went north of Guatemala to Peten, a region completely controlled by narcos. As I traveled to La Técnica and Bethel, I began to understand how the Coyotes—the name for smugglers who facilitate the migration of people across the United States border—work and how well organized they were. The local Coyotes did not like the fact that I was around. The further in depth I went—as a stranger and foreigner—the more difficult it became to have access to where and when emigrants were crossing the border to Mexico.
To leave this town, a local cooperative director had to protect me, as I got on the boat to Mexico.
Back in Mexico, I went to Palenque. Here many emigrants take the train to go north to Veracruz, the main area controlled by the Zetas gang, a criminal organization in Mexico. Once I arrived in Veracruz, I went to Medias Aguas where the two train lines from Tabasco and Chiapas meet. It is at this point where gangs—mainly the Zetas Cartel—kidnap migrants every day. Naturally, it was very difficult to know who to trust, when many migrants were being watched by informant-migrants working for the Zetas.
From Medias Aguas, I traveled through Tierra Blanca to La Patrona. Here, I met a group of women, who voluntarily provide food and water to migrants traveling by train. Although these women have a job and a family, they still find time to work in supermarkets in exchange for bread. They prepare bags with tortillas, meat, rice, bread and water to give to migrants as the train passes through La Patrona. Two to three times a day, these women run to the train tracks to deliver their bags as the migrants hang from the train carriages to reach for them.
After La Patrona, I traveled to Puebla until I reached Lecheria, near the Federal District in Mexico, where migrants take a train north; there is also a migrant shelter in this town. I took a plane from Lechería to Hermosillo and from there I went to Nogales, a town bordering Arizona.
The Mexico-US border is a completely different reality. Here, I saw deported Mexican and Central American migrants looking for another chance to cross into the United States. I decided to stay around Nogales and Altar near the border, where migrants start their journey into the Sasabe desert. By foot, the crossing takes four to five days before emigrants reach a house in Arizona where they are safe.
I spent time with the Samaritans in Tuscon, Arizona, a diverse group of people that look for migrants in the desert to help them in any way they can. Together we headed into the Arizona desert, though we were unable to find migrants. Instead, we found only water bottles and clothes, as well as border patrol agents guarding the area