- 9 Mexico and Central America reporters
- 5 countries
- 12 stories
In 2014, immigration was suddenly big news. But immigration has been going on for a long time, it's roots run deep, and it doesn't always flow north / south. In this project for Round Earth Media, I recruited nine young reporters in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and worked with them to identify stories that showed surprising or little-known aspects of migration: a town of empty mansions built by absentee migrants, a man who gives foot massages to migrants on the border, a young girl who tried, and fails to reach her mother, and two young brothers who succeed in reaching theirs at great cost. One of these stories won a Peabody Award that year.
We were also among the first reporting teams to cover the now well-publicized migration of Africans and Asians through Latin America. I covered this story alongside multi-award winning reporter Manuel Ureste, and the experience was a vindication of Round Earth Media's method of paired-journalism. We arrived on the border in the pitch dark of early morning at a time when violence was starting to touch every corner of Mexico. Chapo Guzman had escaped again and we had even passed roadblocks purportedly looking for him. A migrant had told us of being robbed at gun point here. Dimly lit faces and harsh voices surrounded us in the darkness as we wandered the streets wondering in which direction to head. A pair of bicycle taxi drivers kept pestering us, and as the shortest route out of there we agreed they should take us to the river.
"Yes, safer," the drivers agreed. But as they started peddling, they didn't look anxious at all. In fact, they started racing. In the spirit, I pretended to lash my bike like a Roman chariot. I turned and saw Mañuel grinning ear to ear as the bicycle taxi rocked so hard it threatened to spill him. "Vamonos," I shouted, extending an imaginary sword to the prow of my bike, all my fears gone, and then as suddenly as we had started we stopped. We were at the river. Men were hauling cargo to the beach while others were preparing their inner tube ferries and women fried tostadas on charcoal stoves, ready for the breakfast rush. Everyone was far to busy to notice us. It would have taken us 2 minutes at the most to walk here. I would have felt foolish on my own. As it was, I had someone to laugh with.
The day before a migrant from Cameroon had told us how he kissed the earth after crossing the river and arriving in Mexico. Mañuel and I encountered a very articulate ferryman who told us how he crossed Africans several times a week. I wanted to numbers, dates, places of origin, trying to establish a big picture, and I kept pushing him on this, though he couldn't help much. Then Mañuel, recalling the Cameroonian, asked if the migrants were ever happy when they reached Mexico. I remember thinking the question was a distraction. This hard-bitten man of business doesn't notice things like that. Are you kidding? He responded with such a sincere, hilarious, humane and profound answer that it became the centrepiece of my report. I learnt a lot about interviewing that day.