Scenes from the Border

Scenes from the Border (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

Jair Cabrera is a photojournalist in Mexico who documents the journey of migrants from Central America to the United States, as the debate over immigration and a border wall remains at the center of American politics.

This story, first published December 7, 2018, takes us inside the migrant experience. 

A migrant runs desperately to catch up with a truck heading north on Nov. 11, 2018. Many migrants from the caravan walked most of the way from Central America to central Mexico. However, for the remaining 1,700 miles to the border, getting a ride on a truck was a matter of survival for some. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)
Migrants hurry to jump on a truck to get a ride north to the U.S. border on Nov. 11, 2018. Because of the need for transportation, vehicles were adapted to carry people for the long journey – the truck pictured is usually used to move livestock. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

I grew up in Iztapalapa, in the eastern part of Mexico City. In my neighborhood, daily life is marked by a lack of opportunities and a high rate of violence, which has caused many people to flee. Since I was little, I’ve lived with migration constantly in front of me: close friends and family have had to leave to find a better life for themselves. This has sparked my interest in the topic, because the migrants I photograph reflect the people I know who have migrated, too.

Children and their families are loaded onto trucks on Nov. 11, 2018. For many, the risks outweigh the threats back home in Honduras, making this a journey of survival. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

I traveled with migrants for a week. During this journey, the Central American migrants transformed spaces in order to survive and to continue north. I watched as trailers and trucks, normally used for merchandise or animals, were adapted to carry people across an entire country.

In Mexico City, a sports complex was turned into a shelter with enormous tents set up as dormitories and cisterns for bathing. In one corner of the shelter, some migrants set up a salon, making money by cutting hair and doing eyebrows.

Gerson earns his way cutting hair in one of the shelters set up in Mexico City on Dec. 7, 2018. Originally from Honduras, he felt unsafe there, especially after his brother was murdered. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)
In Mexico City, migrants shelter in a soccer stadium on Nov. 28, 2018. The caravan spent a week here, letting migrants catch up, rest and organize resources for the long journey ahead towards Tijuana. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)
Dozens of migrants are piled into a truck — this one usually used to transport cars — for the long drive north on Nov. 11, 2018. The trip from Mexico City to Tijuana takes between 36 to 48 hours. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

After having spent a week traveling with them, I, too, decided to arrive in Tijuana. I’ve always been struck by its status as a border city. Just walking down the street, you hear so many stories and dialects, reaffirming that this is a city full of immigrants who were able to adapt to a new place.

A baseball stadium in Tijuana converted to an improvised migrant camp is home to hundreds of people on Nov. 28, 2018. There was a desperate feeling among the migrants waiting to cross into the United States in search of political asylum. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)
In Tijuana, a woman carries her child across the flooded camp where dozens of families are staying on Nov. 30, 2018, just a few yards away from the border wall that separates their dreams from their reality. Extensive rain created chaos and provoked a humanitarian crisis. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

During my current stay, I met a group of young people (six guys and one woman with her 3-year-old daughter) who had been traveling together since entering Mexico, and I listened to their stories. On Tuesday morning, I went to the shelter where they were staying and they told me that they were going to jump the border fence, so I decided to spend the whole day with them.

A young man takes shelter from a downpour on Nov. 29, 2018. The rain in Tijuana took an emotional toll on the migrants of the caravan. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

The moment had come for them to take off and we walked a couple of hours to find the perfect spot to cross. There was no time to say goodbye, and they crossed. I watched them through a hole in the fence as the border patrol caught them and loaded them on to a truck. I have no idea what happened to them. It makes me so sad to think of the thousands of migrants who cross borders every day without knowing what’s in store for them.

After reaching Tijuana, a group of migrants attempts to cross the border on Dec. 4, 2018. Here, a man helps a young girl jump the fence. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)
Dozens of migrants in Tijuana pray for safe passage to the United States so they can turn their American Dream into a reality on Nov. 27, 2018. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

The photo captions were translated from Spanish to English, by Peter Eversoll.

To see more of Jair Cabrera’s photos, check out his Instagram

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