Lost and Found

Tequisquiapan, Estado de México. 24 October 2012. A mother of two disappeared Central American immigrants prays to find her children. Two years later, they were able to reunite. Photo by: Moysés Zúniga
Photo: Moysés Zúniga

Spanning over 5 years of Moysés Zúñiga’s work, Lost and Found chronicles the perilous sojourn of Central American migrants across Mexico’s southern border and northward, through Mexico, towards the United States. In Zúñiga’s photographs, we find the countless faces and lives made invisible by the criminal and structural violence that expels hundreds of thousands from their communities, and thrusts them into states of radical vulnerability as they travel along migratory routes. With his photographs and detailed firsthand accounts, Zúñiga immerses the viewer in rare and specific glimpses of narratives from Mexico’s southern border—stories that are virtually ignored by mainstream media in the United States. Migrants are besieged by petty thieves, criminal gangs, corrupt public officials, unscrupulous businessmen, and an indifferent public opinion. Each photograph at once suspends and condenses the terror and defenselessness that mark the movement of migrants—on foot, by bus, on rafts, by train—through a succession of predetermined landscapes, each harboring its own risks and predators. The fleeting reassurance of having reached each destination along the route only implies the dangers that lay ahead. Each leg of the journey marks another repetition of the endless cycle that migrants face—robbery, extortion, mutilation, torture, rape, sexual servitude, amputation, and disappearance. Some are apprehended early on by Mexican immigration authorities and deported back to their countries of origin, only to attempt the crossing again. Some fall off of La bestia (“The Beast”), the infamous migrant train, or are kidnapped by criminal gangs and never heard from again. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable, with many coerced into sexual slavery in the cantinas and dance halls that line the streets of border cities like Tapachula. Countless others abandon the journey altogether and settle in Mexico under a punishing regime of illegality. In Moysés Zúñiga’s photographs, those lost in this machine of suffering and death are found, alive and in full possession of their humanity.