Migrant women documenting their experiences crossing the border

woman and man posing for a photograph on freight train

“This photo was taken by a volunteer at a church-run migrants shelter,” says Pindado. “We don’t know much about the two people in this photo, whether they are a couple or not. It’s true, though, that if you’re a migrant women traveling alone through Mexico, it’s a good idea to find a companion along the way. Many women get raped.” (Credit: MigraZoom participant)

After years of photographing migration, freelance photographer Encarni Pindado — realizing that there was so much that her perspective as a non-migrant did not capture — began a participatory photography project. MigraZoom gives migrants crossing the border disposable cameras to document their own experience of the crossing.

“We’ve seen photos of the journey migrants take through Mexico, and I’d been on the trains with them as they made their way to the border,” Pindado said. “But I also knew that something was missing, that there were moments that we were still not capturing.”

I am most struck by and interested in the ways that migrant women are documenting their own experiences. An ongoing theme in the women migrants’ photographs is sexual violence — from strategies to avoid violence to harm reduction practices such as taking contraceptives before crossing the border to avoid pregnancy should they get raped along the way (a very real risk for which migrant women know to prepare).

But there are many ways of documenting one’s experience nowadays, and in the age of social media, migrants are — much like the rest of us — chronicling their lives on Facebook and other platforms. This story follows a woman who is crossing the border to reunite with her girlfriend as she documents her crossing and communicates with her loved ones via social media, updating her statuses as she braves the elements — the cold, the sand storms while crossing the desert — and sending messages of love for her girlfriend awaiting her on the other side.

It is so important to consider the experiences of women immigrants as they cross the border, and there is a lot of really great reporting being done by talented and dedicated journalists out there to bring it to light. But having the perspectives of the women themselves — whether through photographs or their social media — is absolutely invaluable.

1bfea3e7449eff65a94e2e55a8b7acda-bpfullVerónica is a queer immigrant writer, artist, and rabble-rouser.

New York, NY

Verónica Bayetti Flores has spent the last years of her life living and breathing reproductive justice. She has led national policy and movement building work on the intersections of immigrants' rights, health care access, young parenthood, and LGBTQ liberation, and has worked to increase access to contraception and abortion, fought for paid sick leave, and demanded access to safe public space for queer youth of color. In 2008 Verónica obtained her Master’s degree in the Sexuality and Health program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She loves cooking, making art, listening to music, and thinking about the ways art forms traditionally seen as feminine are valued and devalued. In addition to writing for Feministing, she is currently spending most of her time doing policy work to reduce the harms of LGBTQ youth of color's interactions with the police and making sure abortion care is accessible to all regardless of their income.

Verónica is a queer immigrant writer, activist, and rabble-rouser.

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