Soldiers and Kings: Inside the World of Human Smuggling

Oct 11, 2022, 4:30 pm6:00 pm



Event Description

In 2014, Mexico (with financial and logistical support from the Obama administration) launched Programa Frontera Sur, a security enforcement project aimed at stopping Central American migrants from reaching the U.S./Mexico border. Under this program, Mexico dramatically increased arrests and deportations while simultaneously making the migration journey more arduous and deadly. In response to this heightened security, migrants have turned to transnational gangs such as MS-13 who have become increasingly involved in the human smuggling industry. In 2015 I began a long-term photoethnographic project focused on understanding the daily lives of Honduran smugglers who profit from transporting migrants across the length of Mexico. In this talk I use ethnographic data to discuss the relationship between transnational gangs and the human smuggling industry and outline the complicated role that photography plays as a field method and data source in this violent and ethically challenging context.

Jason De León is Executive Director of the Undocumented Migration Project and the Colibri Center for Human Rights, a joint 501(c)(3) organization focused on raising awareness about issues related to migration and assisting families of missing migrants search for their loved ones. De León is Professor of Anthropology and Chicana, Chicano, and Central American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles and Head Curator of the ongoing global exhibition “Hostile Terrain 94.” He is the author of the award-winning book “The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail” and a 2017 MacArthur Fellow.

Agustín Fuentes, Anthropology, Princeton University
Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, Sociology, Princeton University

This event will be free and open to the public. Space is limited, please register in advance.


Those who cannot attend in person can alternatively choose to join us via Zoom:


Program in Latin American Studies