There has been a ton of press, recently, about the number of children trying to cross the US/Mexico border. Most of the kids are from Central America, especially Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador—three countries with exceptionally high poverty and crime rates.
While this is a very politically charged topic, there’s no denying that many of these kids are desperate to escape awful situations in their home countries. Reading news stories on the subject makes me think back to the two weeks I spent in Guatemala, two years ago. Some teachers at my Spanish school knew people who smuggled their way into the U.S.—including their own family members.
One of my teachers, Flor, told me how her cousin made such a journey. His life was being threatened by a gang—every day, members told him his choice was to join the gang or else his family would be in danger. So with the help of a coyote, he left his family. He went from Guatemala to Mexico, then spent days walking trough the dessert with barley any food or water. He was just 16. And while he made it safely, he may never be able to see his family again.
Hearing that story, and others like it, humbled me. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by things going on in my life. But as trying as my problems can be, they’re often pretty first-world. I didn’t have to smuggle my way into a country as a kid, to escape poverty or violence.
Last week, I came upon some fascinating (and gorgeous) photos that touched upon the issue. Jason De Leon, an assistant professor of anthropology and director of the Undocumented Migration Project, and National Geographic teamed up for a photo camp in Arivaca, Arizona, a town on the US/Mexico border. Twenty-five kids, ranging in age from 13 to 18, spent five days shooting photos that depict life in border towns affected by this migration:
See all the photos here.