The Other Side of Migration: Central American Women
Project info

“The Other Face of Migration: Central American Women” focus on the dangers that Central American migrant women face while crossing Mexico en route to the U.S.

This project was a finalist for the Humanistic Photographic Grant, W. Eugene Smith 2014.

During the last years Latin-American migration to the United States has changed drastically. A decade ago migratory flows in this region were comprised mostly of Mexican border-crossers. However, the largest group is currently constituted of women and men from the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

There are many suggestions as to why their migration has increased, but the majority of experts have concluded that it is not only due to heightened levels of violence but also to a market demand in the US that has come to depend on these vulnerable workers. Moreover, impunity and corruption have grown with many groups being left vulnerable, particularly women and minors. The region currently has the highest rate of gender-motivated killings in the world.

Due to its strategic position Central American migrants are forced to transit through Mexico that, in effect, serves as the largest migrant corridor between the Global South and North.

Due to pressure and increased border cooperation between Mexico and the United States, Central American mobility has been criminalised throughout the Mexican territory. Migrants are thus relegated to the migrant route, where they travel covertly towards the US border aboard rickety freight trains that are not meant for carrying passengers.

The organised crime and transnational gangs control the migration route. These organisations demand a “cuota” (ransom) for migrants to continue on their journey, if they don’t have money to pay them, they risk being killed by these gangs. According to the Mexican Commission for Human Rights (CNDH) during 2010 in a period of just six months, over 11.000 migrants were reported as kidnapped for ransom, often in liaison with corrupt authorities, which constitutes a multimillion-dollar enterprise.

Marta Sánchez from the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement (MMM) organise caravans for mothers searching for their disappeared migrant family members in Mexican territory. She estimates that up to 70,000 migrants have disappeared in a period of 10 years.