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Soldiers and Kings: Inside the World of Human Smuggling

Jason De León, Undocumented Migration Project; University of California, Los Angeles

October 11, 2022 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · 219 Aaron Burr Hall

Program in Latin American Studies

In 2014, Mexico (with financial and logistical support from the Obama administration) launched Programa Frontera Sur, a security enforcement project aimed at stopping Central American migrants from reaching the U.S./Mexico border. Under this program, Mexico dramatically increased arrests and deportations while simultaneously making the migration journey more arduous and deadly. In response to this heightened security, migrants have turned to transnational gangs such as MS-13 who have become increasingly involved in the human smuggling industry. In 2015 De León began a long-term photoethnographic project focused on understanding the daily lives of Honduran smugglers who profit from transporting migrants across the length of Mexico. In this talk he will use ethnographic data to discuss the relationship between transnational gangs and the human smuggling industry and outline the complicated role that photography plays as a field method and data source in this violent and ethically challenging context.

Jason De León is Executive Director of the Undocumented Migration Project and the Colibri Center for Human Rights, a joint 501(c)(3) organization focused on raising awareness about issues related to migration and assisting families of missing migrants search for their loved ones. De León is Professor of Anthropology and Chicana, Chicano, and Central American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles and Head Curator of the ongoing global exhibition “Hostile Terrain 94.” He is the author of the award-winning book “The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail” and a 2017 MacArthur Fellow.

Undocumented Migration Project

Hostile Terrain 94

Agustín Fuentes, Anthropology, Princeton University
Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, Sociology, Princeton University

Co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology, Center for Migration and Development, Effron Center for the Study of America, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), and the Humanities Council.


This event is free and open to the public. A reception will immediately follow. Space is limited, please register in advance.


Those who cannot attend in person can alternatively choose to join us via Zoom:


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