In parts of Latin America, lack of job opportunities, limited access to education and political corruption have persisted for generations, fueling cycles of violence and displacement that are both symptoms and causes of disrupted societies. I have documented this phenomenon for the past four years — traveling along migration routes from Venezuela to Colombia and from Central America to Mexico and the United States.
Since 2018, I have spent periods of months and weeks in the Colombian departments of La Guajira and Norte de Santander, the main entries from Venezuela, and along the Andean routes that connect the border with the capital city, Bogota. A Venezuelan political crisis has led to an outflow of 5 million migrants since 2016. Colombia has been the country most affected by this exodus, but many migrants have kept moving to other countries, hoping to find a safer place and jobs.
This year, in the aftermath of hurricanes Eta and Iota, I traveled to Honduras. There, flooding and mudslides disrupted the lives of 4.5 million people, leading to a significant migration toward the United States — which came on the heels of other recent migrations, often caused by political instability and uncontrolled gang violence.
Following migrants from different countries for such a long time, I have seen countless stories of loss and separation through the eyes of the most vulnerable: those who are born, grow and die on the move. As I documented migrants’ journeys, I kept in mind the diversity of reasons that push each population to emigrate, but I also understood that human mobility broadly affects Latin America’s societies.
Decades of civil war, endemic poverty or violence make it hard for migrants to find better conditions than those they are fleeing. Crossing borderlands controlled by gangs and rebel groups, people are exposed to trafficking and recruitment. Some never reach their destination. Others continue to move, often by foot, hoping to find a place where they might start a new chapter of their lives.
A man holds his daughter while trying to hide from the police in Vado Hondo, Guatemala. Honduran migrants at a barricade in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, in January. A funeral in Comitancillo, Guatemala, for three migrants who were killed in Mexico while trying to cross into Texas. Frankilina Epiayu, an Indigenous Wayuu midwife, kneads the belly of a pregnant Venezuelan woman in an informal settlement in Uribia, Colombia. Police arrest a Venezuelan migrant accused of theft in Maicao, Colombia, in 2018.
People wait in line for a free meal at a church charity organization in Villa del Rosario, Colombia, in 2018.
A young Venezuelan girl uses a cup to collect alms along a street in Bogota in 2018.
LEFT: People wait in line for a free meal at a church charity organization in Villa del Rosario, Colombia, in 2018. RIGHT: A young Venezuelan girl uses a cup to collect alms along a street in Bogota in 2018.
A woman crosses the Rio Grande and enters the United States with two children in March from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. People help Jessica Rivas while her son Isaac, 4, cries after she fainted during a clash between migrants and police in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, in January.
Venezuelan children wait for food in Paraguachón, Colombia, in 2019.
People rest on a bridge along a migration route in San Manuel, Mexico, in March.
LEFT: Venezuelan children wait for food in Paraguachón, Colombia, in 2019. RIGHT: People rest on a bridge along a migration route in San Manuel, Mexico, in March.
A mud-covered classroom in a school affected by hurricanes in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in January. A Venezuelan man carries an old woman after she fainted while crossing the Rio Grande to enter the United States in Del Rio, Tex., in May. A boy waits as a barricade stops people bound for the United States in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, in January. A transgender woman waits to be registered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers after entering the United States in La Joya, Tex., in June. Transgender people from Honduras and other Central American countries often flee gender persecution. A man guides a group of migrants through the Rio Grande while an American soldier points in Roma, Tex., in May. A railway officer along tracks in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, in February. Migrants sometimes try to jump aboard a cargo train known as La Bestia (The Beast) to head north, but the path is dangerous.
Nicoló Filippo Rosso is an Italian photographer based in Colombia, Central America, Mexico and the United States.
Photo editing by Chloe Coleman. Design by Clare Ramirez.