About this project
PANOPTICON IMAGING is now an official sponsor of Destino!
The Project Goal:
Destino is a photography book project portraying the epic journey across Mexico by freight train of undocumented Central American migrants as they attempt to enter the United States in pursuit of a better life. If fully funded, I will fly to El Paso, Texas in mid-May and from there, cross the border to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico to begin the last phase of shooting for the project.
I've photographed the migrant journey starting with the El Suchiate river crossing along the Guatemala - Mexico border, following the train route through the Mexican states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Distrito Federal (Mexico City), San Luis Potosí, finally reaching the city of Saltillo in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila (about a 7 hour bus ride from the U.S. border).
I’ve been working on this project entirely on my own for three years, paying for film, airfare, and other expenses by juggling credit cards and whatever I’ve been able to save shooting weddings. Fluent in Spanish, I haven’t had to rely on translators, which has helped in keeping costs down. I've simply showed up at various migrant shelters and introduced myself. Migrants take me under their wing as if I were one of them. I've ridden La Bestia three times already, and that takes some cojones! But the heavily militarized northern border region is controlled by warring drug cartels, making it especially dangerous. With your help, I would be able to hire a reliable fixer – typically a knowledgeable local journalist who is one part facilitator, one-part bodyguard. The fantastic news is that I already found someone to work with! He's busy making arrangements. The hiccup is that good fixers aren't cheap.
I am using Kickstarter to fund the last phase of shooting, which documents the tale end of the migrant journey along the Mexico - U.S. border. Funding would cover the following expenses: fixer fee, airfare, transportation, lodging, meals, film & processing.
My aim is to create images that humanize the individuals behind the polarizing immigration debate and to direct attention to the underlying causes behind this migration. Lacking representation, undocumented immigrants make convenient scapegoats during a period of economic uncertainty.
By collaborating with non profit organizations, such as Witness For Peace and the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBar), I hope to inspire meaningful discussion in the short-term. A published book is the end goal.
How it all started
I’ve spent more than half my life circling back to one region. In 2009, after nearly ten years photographing along the U.S. – Mexico border, I traveled to the small, dusty town of Ixtepec, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. There, I met Father Alejandro Solalinde, a Catholic priest whose shelter, Hermanos en El Camino, provides a temporary safe haven for migrants traveling along the train route. I was deeply moved by Solalinde’s dedication and compassion towards “the least among us”. I was completely taken by the migrants’ open willingness to share their personal stories with me. There in the sweltering heat under the tin roof of the shelter’s makeshift chapel, as migrants told their stories, I realized that everything I had done for the past 20 years had led me to this place, to tell this particular story that is both a social commentary on one of the biggest global issues of our times and an epic adventure tale.
Here are a few blog posts from the project:
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