Meaning both “destination” and “destiny” in Spanish, “Destino” portrays the perilous journey of undocumented Central American migrants along the network of freight trains in Mexico. As these vehicles lurch inexorably across the Mexican landscape, they head towards the promise of finding work in the United States. It is the odyssey of a generation of exiles across a land that is becoming increasingly dangerous, heading towards a precarious future—an option of last resorts. 

Unlike Mexican migration to the United States that dates back to the 1880’s, the unprecedented wave of Central American migration began a full century later as a consequence of bloody civil wars, U.S. Cold War-era intervention in the region and crippling international trade policies. Those regional conflicts left a legacy of drug and gang-related violence, a high incidence of domestic abuse and unrelenting cycles of poverty.

Migration as an issue is current; the story of migration is timeless. Having grown up on the adventure tales of Jack London and Mark Twain, and then later on Cormac McCarthy’s border stories, there is no storyline more compelling to me than one involving a youthful odyssey across a hostile wilderness. With a singularity of purpose and a kind of brazen resilience, migrants traverse deadly terrain, relying mostly on their wits and the occasional kindness of strangers.

In documenting a journey both concrete and figurative, I convey the experience of individuals who struggle to control their own destiny when confronted by extreme circumstances, much like the anti-hero protagonists of the adventure tales I grew up reading.

—Michelle Frankfurter

Don’t miss the work of all the other winners and finalists from the LensCulture Visual Storytelling Awards 2014. In total, you’ll find 25 powerfully told stories from across the world.

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