AAA/CASCA Executive Program Committee
Executive Session - Oral Presentation Session
Margarita Nuñez-Chaim (CIESAS)
Since at least 2011, Central American migrants and their allies in Mexico have staged caravans, combining humanitarian accompaniment with protest, protecting individuals from harm while demanding their rights be respected while in Mexican territory. In 2018 and 2019, this phenomenon took a new dimension, as tens of thousands of mostly Honduran migrants organized themselves into caravans, starting from Central America for the first time. As two anthropologists who have been present in many caravans over the last decade, we explore the nature of caravans as protest, both examining the kinds of empowerment developed among migrants and identifying the limitations to that process. We focus on the unapologetic visibility of the caravan and the demand to not only be allowed to pass through Mexican territory but to be treated with dignity. A common chant, as migrants march through the immigration checkpoints that would usually cause dread, is “Warning! Warning! Warning on the move: the migrants’ struggle for Latin America!” We argue that this kind of in-your-face demand of a right to exist as one wishes and move through space without seeking permission has coalesced in the form of the migrant caravan and, in doing so, had real impact on public discourse and politics. We also recognize, however, that the short-term impacts are limited and even negative, as caravaneros face repression and criminalization, deportation of Central Americans continues unabated, and borders are being further militarized as a response. Still, in the face of this, Hondurans continue to migrate, proudly defiant, in caravans.