Photographer Katie Orlinsky captures the conditions driving the exodus to the United States.
— Photos by Katie Orlinsky; Text by Ian Gordon on Wed. February 18, 2015 9:53 AM PDT
In October 2013, I traveled to Guatemala’s western highlands to report on the surge of children migrating from Central America to the United States. The largely indigenous region was more or less unchanged from when I’d lived in a village near the Guatemala-Mexico border in 2006, or when I’d returned to do graduate work there in 2009: It was poor, susceptible to natural disasters, and full of families with relatives living in the United States.
Photographer Katie Orlinsky visited many of the same places that I did, and her evocative work from Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango, the unofficial capital of the highlands, illuminates the poverty that continues to push children and families north. Recent data suggests that while far fewer Hondurans and Salvadorans have been arriving at the US border, the number of Guatemalans has dipped only slightly. As one Guatemalan migrant shelter official told Orlinsky, “Children do not migrate—they flee.”