In the summer of 2014, a large number of unaccompanied minors from Central America presented themselves at the border between the United States and México. These unaccompanied minors were not only fleeing poverty or lack of opportunity, but also family violence or persecution from the marabuntas, or gangs, that are found in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. The United States painted this migration of refugees as a “crisis” not because children were migrating, unaccompanied, through dangerous journeys, but because they were migrating without documentation.
The number of unaccompanied minors migrating has not since diminished, although the number of migrants reaching the U.S. border has reduced. These minors face increasingly dangerous journeys. The stories of these unaccompanied minors are on the television, the radio, and newspapers, but they are never told from their own perspective. Although these stories, told by journalists or other professionals, raise consciousness about the situation and human rights issues of migration, the stories are told from an external point of view and not from that of the protagonists. Our society values stories more than it does people. What happens when migrants tell their own stories?
Historias Desde el Albergue was created by cultural organizer Andrea Gordillo in December 2015 in an attempt to address this migrant invisibility. A digital archive of migrant stories, Historias Desde el Albergue paints a picture of life inside the shelter for unaccompanied minors from Central America, Adolescentes en el Camino, at the time located in Oaxaca de Juárez, México. Residents of the shelter took photos and recorded songs about their everyday lives to express to society the complexity of their world. Through their art, they were able document their present lives in Oaxaca, make meaning of their past by taking photos of objects that reminded them of their previous lives, and dream up visions of a new future by capturing images and crafting words to express their hopes and dreams. Behind a camera or a song, the adolescents took advantage of an opportunity to express themselves in their own way, to question their environments and interact with them in different ways. This iteration of the project was made possible by Harvard University, where it held residency at Project Zero. Select photos and videos from Historias Desde el Albergue were presented at Harvard University in April 2016.
Andrea Gordillo is an Artist in Residence at Arts Connect International (July 2016-2017), where Historias Desde el Albergue will be developed in two more migrant shelters in México, Centro de Protección Internacional para Adolescentes en el Camino (CEPROIAC) and Hermanos en el Camino. In this iteration of the project, more migrants will share photos, raps, and other art works to challenge migrant invisibility and lack of power over their own narratives. Historias Desde el Albergue will be shown in cities all over the world from November 2016-July 2017.
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