Behind the Migrant Caravan: Ethnographic Updates from Central America

Photo by Whitney Godoy.

(Con traducción al español)

Central America is again in the news as a region in crisis. In October 2018, a group of migrants gathered in a bus station in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and began marching north. They quickly became the largest caravan yet to travel through Mexico from Central America. In response, building up to the U.S. midterm elections, President Donald Trump mobilized thousands of active-duty troops to await what he called an “assault on our country.” These were the first moves in a political standoff over an invented emergency of border security that led to a record-breaking shutdown of the U.S. government—while thousands of migrants waited in Tijuana, determined to apply for asylum. In mid-January 2019, another caravan began making its way through Mexico. The contributors to this series, social scientists of (and many from) Central America—some longtime ethnographers, some new to the field—take readers beyond the border. They offer glimpses of what is happening now in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, seeking to show some of the reasons why so many migrants are fleeing their homes.

Detrás de la Caravana de Migrantes: Actualizaciones Etnográficas de Centroamérica

Centroamérica está nuevamente en las noticias como una región en crisis. En octubre de 2018, un grupo de migrantes se reunió en una estación de buses en San Pedro Sula, Honduras, y comenzó a marchar rumbo al norte. Rápidamente se convirtieron en la caravana más grande que hasta ahora ha viajado a través de México desde Centroamérica. En respuesta, y de cara a las elecciones de medio término en los Estados Unidos, el Presidente Donald Trump movilizó miles de tropas en servicio para esperar lo que él denominó “agresión a nuestro país.” Estas fueron las primeras maniobras hacia un enfrentamiento político alrededor de una crisis artificial sobre seguridad fronteriza que condujo un cierre sin precedentes del gobierno de los Estados Unidos—mientras miles de migrantes esperaban en Tijuana, decididos a solicitar asilo. A mediados de enero de 2019, otra caravana comenzó a recorrer la travesía por México. Los autores de esta serie son científicos sociales sobre Centroamérica y mucho de ellos son originarios de la región—algunos etnógrafos de larga trayectoria y otros que están incursionando en el tema—llevan a los lectores más allá de la frontera. Ellos ofrecen una mirada de lo que está pasando ahora en Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, y Nicaragua, buscando mostrar las razones por las cuales muchos migrantes están huyendo de sus países.

Posts in This Series

Introduction: Behind the Migrant Caravan

Introduction: Behind the Migrant Caravan

(Con traducción al español) Our answers are to be short. In November 2018, an immigration judge reprimanded one of us for taking too long to explain why the pol... More

Bound Up in Each Other: Salvadoran LGBT Displacement

Bound Up in Each Other: Salvadoran LGBT Displacement

(Con traducción al español) Amanda sits on the red accent chair in her studio apartment, stroking the two long-haired Yorkies in her lap. The room is small, mad... More

Ecological Crisis: The Blind Spot in Migration Discourse

Ecological Crisis: The Blind Spot in Migration Discourse

(Con traducción al español) “The next migrants are going to be climate migrants,” declared Lina Pohl, head of El Salvador’s Environment and Natural Resources Mi... More

Está Bien Recordar: Stories of the 1.5 Insurgent Generation

Está Bien Recordar: Stories of the 1.5 Insurgent Generation

(Con traducción al español) In 1993, when I started my research in the rural communities of Chalatenango, El Salvador, residents had few photographs—although th... More

In/Visibility in Migration: A Reflection on the Caravan

In/Visibility in Migration: A Reflection on the Caravan

(Con traducción al español) In July 2007, at a shelter for migrants in southern Mexico, I sat down with a man in his mid-forties to find out why he had left El ... More

Alliance for Prosperity?

Alliance for Prosperity?

(Con traducción al español) After U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden visited Central America in 2015, he called for Congressional approval of an initiative known ... More

Corruption, Waiting, Exhaustion

Corruption, Waiting, Exhaustion

La lucha contra la impunidad no es un fin en sí mismo, sino una vía para construir una mejor vida en sociedad [The struggle against impunity is not an end in it... More

The Violent Landscapes of Sugar and Oil Palm

The Violent Landscapes of Sugar and Oil Palm

(Con traducción al español) To understand the confluence of transnational and local forces that drive migration from Central America, it is necessary to take st... More

Gender-Based Violence and the Plight of Guatemalan Refugees

Gender-Based Violence and the Plight of Guatemalan Refugees

(Con traducción al español) The work that now brings me to the crowded waiting room of a federal immigration court in the United States began in Guatemalan refu... More

Revolution Betrayed

Revolution Betrayed

(Con traducción al español) In 2006, I took a bus from Tegucigalpa in Honduras to Managua, Nicaragua. As the bus departed, a woman dropped her bag onto the seat... More

Leave or Die: Neoextractivism and the Garifuna Experience in Honduras

Leave or Die: Neoextractivism and the Garifuna Experience in Honduras

(Con traducción al español) Neoextractivism is Honduras’ favored development strategy. The exploitation and accumulation of common goods in nature has led to th... More

The Caravan is Honduras: Hope and Death at the Border

The Caravan is Honduras: Hope and Death at the Border

(Con traducción al español) “What do you think, you’re a gringa, will he let us in?” “Honestly?” I reply, “I don’t think so, not as a group. My country isn’t ve... More

The Role of the State in Hondurans Fleeing from Violence

The Role of the State in Hondurans Fleeing from Violence

(Con traducción al español) Honduran migration to the United States is not new, but in recent decades it has increased. Violence by criminal groups, maras (gang... More

A Crisis Foretold: On the Origins of the Migrant Caravan

A Crisis Foretold: On the Origins of the Migrant Caravan

(Con traducción al español) In September 2015, while sitting in the zocalo in Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico, I was approached by a boy in his early teens. Gaping hol... More

The New Terrorist Type in Nicaragua

The New Terrorist Type in Nicaragua

(Con traducción al español) Since the protests of April 2018 sparked a civic insurrection against the Sandinista state, a new discourse on terrorism in Nicaragu... More

The April Civic Uprising and Its Sandinista Roots

The April Civic Uprising and Its Sandinista Roots

(Con traducción al español) In April 2018, hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans took to the streets for the first time in the country’s history. They asked for ... More

Reflections from a Daughter of the Postwar

Reflections from a Daughter of the Postwar

Me duele respirar.—Álvaro Conrado (Con traducción al español) As a daughter of the postwar in Nicaragua, I never thought I would witness a brutal dictatorship l... More