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Documentary Showcases Hardships Migrants Face
By
Felix Rivera
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Tuesday, July 27, 2010
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WASHINGTON (CNS)—A recent discussion held at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington showcased the plight of migrants from Central America who are trying to get to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Migrants must survive a 25-day journey, an expedition that three journalists from El Faro, a Spanish-language online news service based in El Salvador, witnessed firsthand over a two-year period.

The project undertaken by the journalists took them to places that "no one from the media has gone before" and out of it came their documentary, "En el Camino" ("On the Journey"), which they described at the institute.

The journalists -- Oscar Martinez, Edu Ponces and Marcela Zamora -- decided to take on the project because they "wanted to understand the phenomenon" of migration.

The documentary, which shows the hardships migrants face for a chance at the American dream, will be played in selected theaters and at festivals throughout the country in late September.

"We are trying to stamp the images into people's minds so maybe they will do something about the problem," said Martinez.

Along the journey to the United States, an average of 150 people are kidnapped per day; 500,000 immigrants are fleeing the bandits of their homeland only to encounter the brutality of the Zetas, a criminal organization along the railroad system; and more than 80 percent of women are violated on their way to the border.

One of the filmmakers' stories brought the situation to light for many who attended the institute's June 28 discussion: Migrants intent on leaving for America caught a ride on a moving train. Once aboard, a group of criminals known as the Zetas stopped the train at a town along the path, killing any men who resisted and kidnapping the women. All of this was done in daylight, in plain sight of residents watching from their homes. Police at a nearby station took no action.

"Zetas are the authority in many places along the railroad," Ponces said. "The police don't have the firearms to fight them."

A bribe of 40 pesos a day —about $3.15—also persuades the local police to remain silent, Martinez added. An average day's pay for these migrants is 30 pesos.
Scenarios such as these are commonplace, the journalists said.

"Why do they steal from the poorest of the poor? Because no one cares," Martinez said. "These people are just merchandise for the Zetas and the rest of the world, sold into modern-day slavery."

The slavery Martinez mentioned is the reason so many kidnappings occur along the route to the border.

Zamora, one of the journalists who worked on a special project titled "Mujeres en el Camino" ("Woman on the Journey") showed a clip from her project which focused on providing first-hand accounts of those kidnapped by the Zetas.

In the clip, a women being interviewed said the Zetas forced her to work for freedom —either as a waitress in a restaurant or as a prostitute on the street corner.

Of the choices given to her, prostitution paid more—a choice she regrettably made.

Aside from her daily work, she was forced to do menial labor for her kidnappers, such as wash clothes.

One day she noticed that a shirt with red stains smelled of gasoline.

Curious about the shirt, she was told by her kidnapper that a migrant who had resisted the Zetas was placed inside a barrel, drenched in gasoline and burned alive.
In the end, the journalists wanted to center their documentary project on the process of immigration.

"We are here to give the evidence and testimony so that others can do their jobs" and improve the situation for migrants trying to find a better life, Ponces said.


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