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Following the Migrant Trail

December 6, 2016
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Just four miles but a world away from the Mayan ruins, the small town of Pakal-Na has become a main gateway for Central American migrants trying to make their way into the US. (Photo credit: Jason De León)

After spending more than six years documenting the movement of undocumented migrants from Mexico to the U.S. through the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, De León recently turned his attention to those fleeing violence and poverty in Central America for their chance to make it to the U.S.

His research seeks to put a face to the migration experience and to understand a process that is highly politicized and poorly understood.

To do so, De León draws from all of anthropology’s fields: archaeology, to study the objects left behind by migrants on their way north in the Arizona desert; forensic science, to understand how the bodies of those who perish at the border decompose; language, to understand how the federal government talks about migration issues to influence public opinion; and ethnography, to learn about migrants’ experiences through participant observation.

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