Faced with indifference: Visual representations that endorse utopian expectations turning dystopic.
Every year, in an attempt to reach the United States, hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants from Central America cross Mexico atop freight trains that are referred to by names such as “The Beast” or “The Train of Death.” Driven by extreme economic conditions, civil unrest and violence in their home countries, and, in some cases, the desire to reunite with relatives already living in the United States, adult individuals, families, and even unaccompanied children and adolescents embark on this perilous journey. In doing so, they risk falling victim to abuse, extortion, sexual assault, and other forms of violence at the hands of brutal gangs, organized crime, and corrupt officials. Many lose their lives.
This study examines various aspects of the passage of undocumented Central American migrants through Mexico, viewing the situation from the perspective of human rights violations and social exclusion. It addresses the specifics and realities of the migrants’ dangerous journey north, and reviews the main factors that lead these people, who are mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, to leave their home countries in search of better conditions and a chance to live what they regard as the American Dream.
The experiences of Central American migrants have been the subject of several documentary films which provide both a narrative and visual representation of the journey north through Mexico. This study will analyze a series of documentaries as well as the feature films Sin nombre (2009) y La jaula de oro (2013) and consider whether the films accurately illustrate the harsh realities that undocumented migrants face while attempting to reach the United States and the extent to which they provide insight into their lives and experiences.
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