In ‘Éxodo,’ Follow One Honduran Family Migrating Across the U.S. Border
Núria Clavero and Aitor Palacio’s documentary follows one young Honduran family’s journey through Mexico to the U.S. in search of a new life. Here, they take us behind the scenes.
In October 2018, a group of migrants in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, formed a caravan bound for the southern border of the U.S. in search of asylum. Word of the caravan spread quickly, as it made global headlines.
Cataluña-based filmmakers Núria Clavero and Aitor Palacios were spending a few months in Mexico in late 2018 when they first heard about the caravan. Filled with questions, they immediately felt the need to document the phenomenon. In Mexico City, they met a young Honduran family making the long and arduous trip to the United States: 19-year-old Yuri, who was eight months pregnant at the time and hopeful to give birth across the border, her son Santi, and her partner, Mike. Within a week, they began filming.
Their resulting documentary, Éxodo, tells the story of Yuri and Mike and their struggle to reach the U.S. to begin a new life. “We began this project because we felt that the media coverage never explored the reasons behind this migration,” says the film’s co-director and executive producer Clavero. By showing the life of the caravan from within, Clavero and the Éxodo team aim to add more context to the story beyond the headlines.
Here, Clavero shares 10 photographs from the journey so far. They’re raising funds for the next leg of filming on Kickstarter through May 25, 2019.
Five days after meeting Mike and Yuri, we were ready to accompany them to their final destination. They left on the subway from Mexico City along with 4,000 other people (seen above). In less than a week, we managed to form a crew — including producer and editor Fran Barba, executive producer Ingrid Stalling, director of photography Miriam Orguz, and sound director Baruch Arias — willing to film the migrant caravan with us for a month. The biggest challenge of this shoot was the need to improvise, since we were bound by the caravan’s decisions and movements.
The Central American migration
A freight train, also known as “The Beast,” carrying migrants north from Chiapas towards Veracruz, passed just next to a camp in Navojoa, Sonora. The Beast has been one of the most-used methods for Central Americans who cannot afford bus tickets or a coyote to migrate. Every time we heard the strong roar of the train, the migrants ran to the railroads to greet and cheer the others who rode on top of it trying to reach the U.S.
This first caravan was the opportunity for many to migrate with their families. The media interest and protection they gave each other allowed them to have a safer trip to the border of Tijuana.
The journey was not easy. The people who traveled had to walk entire days with the caravan, sleep outdoors, and withstand hunger and thirst. In the state of Jalisco, local government kicked out migrants and left them in the middle of highways to wait for an indefinite time. In this photograph, you’ll see thousands of people who had spent two days in the desert of Sonora, without water, food, or shelter, waiting for buses to the border that never seemed to appear.
In Mexicali, a doctor insisted on taking Yuri to a hospital because of the advanced state of her pregnancy. There, she had a sonogram and he let her know that her that her baby would be born that same week. Even though Yuri and her baby were healthy, the doctor recommended the family stop advancing. Mike, aware of the possible risks of the journey, also advised Yuri to stay in Mexicali. Despite advice from her doctor and her partner, Yuri decided not to give up, and to continue her journey to the U.S.
Some days after arriving in Tijuana, the caravan’s mood changed completely. Although many knew that it was improbable that the U.S.’s doors would open, the reality of the border was disappointing. The collective phenomenon of the caravan dissolved. Each person now had to work for him and herself to ask for asylum, cross illegally, or stay in Mexico and look for a job.
In this photograph, we see a migrant named Benito Juaréz’s shelter in Tijuana after a flood caused by thunderstorms. The storm forced migrants to relocate to a new shelter in a marginal neighborhood very far away from the city, which caused even more discouragement.
Mike and Yuri’s moment
Three days after arriving in Tijuana, and after a failed attempt to cross the border, Yuri and Mike’s family hired a coyote to take them to the other side of the wall. In this photograph, they are waiting for him. This is the last time we saw them in Mexico. We spent days without news. The uncertainty became concern, and concern became discomfort. Four days later, they informed us that they had been detained in San Diego, CA.
Still in Tijuana, we received a call from Mike’s father, Miguel. He told us that his son and family had just been freed.
We knew that our three Mexican crew members could not cross into the United States, since they did not have visas. Only the two directors, both of Spanish nationality, could do it without problems. That was the first day the migratory politics affected the crew — we had to look for a photographer on the other side of the wall.
As we waited in line at the Otay immigration gate, we received a message from Yuri and Mike. Mikel Baruch had been born a healthy boy in a hospital in San Diego while they were detained. We were lucky to be able to be with them during their first week in the U.S. before they moved to meet part of their family, who were waiting for them in Ohio.
We decided to shoot in Honduras during the formation of a new caravan on January 15, 2019.
Once there, we shot the exit of the caravan and met Mike and Yuri’s family. We wanted to get close to their homeland, to live the situation on their streets and in their neighborhoods, and to connect with the reasons why thousands of people have joined caravans, which have not stopped emerging since the first big caravan at the end of 2018.
Miguel and Norma, Mike’s parents, took us in for a week and became secondary characters of the documentary. They explained the social-political situation of Honduras and shared the episodes that led the country to a disaster, helping us to understand why thousands of Hondurans would leave their lives. The interior of the house where their family grew up shows us the emptiness left by our main characters. It gets us close to the feelings of parents who hope, not without pain, that their grandchildren can be born far away from their country.
We began this project because we felt that the media coverage never explored the reasons behind this migration — it only pointed out its consequences. We realized it was creating an incomprehensible racism in Mexican society. Additionally, Donald Trump had just deployed 15,000 soldiers on the border, and a situation of an exceptional instability could be foreseen.
We aim to erase prejudice that breeds xenophobia. We also aim to question the restrictive migratory politics from first world countries, which only manage to shift the migratory routes and increase the dangers for migrants, like organized crime, insecurity, death, and family disintegration.
The next chapter, waiting to be written
There is still a chapter in this story to be told. Currently Mike, Yuri, and the kids live in New York as they wait for their asylum trial resolution. We want to film there to finish this story.
We hope to understand what they have found after crossing the wall, to go deep into the experience of the journey, and learn about the challenges they face after achieving their dream of making it to the U.S.