U.S.-Mexico border holds tragic immigrant stories. A new L.A. exhibition lets them speak freely
In 2008, a man came from Guatemala as the U.S. tried to turn away illegal immigrant children coming from a country torn by civil war. After six months, he was gone, along with his 17-year-old son.
A few years later, a group of teenagers — many of them from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador — came to Tijuana. On Oct. 13, 2014, they died at the hands of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
In all, more than 2,000 migrants are missing or believed dead, including more than 100 women, according to the nonprofit Asociacion Azteca de Migrantes. Tijuana’s annual homicide reports are the first ever compiled by the University of California, Los Angeles-Los Angeles County Public Library’s Mexican American Studies Center, which recently began an exhibit, “No Country to Lay Down,” on the border.
The museum exhibit, open through September, has a dramatic title: “The People of the Border.” At first glance, it might seem a simple matter of naming the groups who cross the international fence and who are killed at the border, said the exhibit’s co-organizer, Jennifer Epps Loesch, a sociologist who has written about migration. But a closer look reveals that most Mexican immigrants to the United States have not been killed by the U.S.-Mexico fence, nor have they been fleeing gangs, drugs or persecution.
The border is where they have died, and it is where their stories will be told, said Epps Loesch, a professor at the UCLA-Los Angeles County Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.
“There’s a lot of fear among migrants who enter Mexico illegally,” said Epps Loesch