Under stifling heat, the members of the caravan decide to take a two-day break in the small village of Tapanatepec. They take the opportunity to rest, wash their clothes and bathe in the river that runs below the village. Starting on 25 March 2018 from Tapachula in southern Mexico, on the border with Guatemala, more than 1,500 migrant men, women and children take part of a month-long "caravan" to the Mexican city of Tijuana at the border with the United States. Organized by "Pueblos sin fronteras" (People without borders) this march aims at protecting migrants from the authorities but as well from the gangs and cartels that regularly prey on them when isolated. It was the first caravan of its kind set-up after Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States. 29/03/18 San Pedro Tapanatepec, Oaxaca, Mexico. © Jeoffrey Guillemard

Southern Border

Jeoffrey Guillemard

 2017-2021 — Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, USA

About this series

Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States on January 20, 2017. Among his shocking promises as a candidate, Trump had vowed to build a “Great Wall” between the United States and Mexico. The wall, he told American voters, would protect them from all kinds of scourges, among them immigrants and drugs. His policies, together with an upsurge in violence in the northern triangle of Central America (Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala) have left migrants in a desperate situation. By threatening to increase tariffs on imports from Mexico, Trump convinced the Mexican government to deploy the National Guard and arrest migrants on a mass scale. With this blackmail, Trump outsourced the work of policing the US border to Mexico.
The border of the United States begins in southern Mexico. This is how Central American, Cuban, Haitian and African migrants describe their journey in pursuit of the American dream. They set off on makeshift rafts along the Rio Suchiate near Guatamala’s border with Mexico. After that, they walk for days, some trying to latch on to “La Bestia”, the freight train that travels north. Alone or in caravans, the migrants do their best to avoid the Mexican migration police. Despite the long journey and the many dangers, thousands of migrants take this route every day. They are fleeing the gangs and violence that plague their countries. Along the way, they lose their money, their dignity and sometimes their lives. 

A migrant walks on the railway connecting the city of Arriaga (Chiapas) to Chahuites (Oaxaca). This road through fields is known to be particularly dangerous. Central American migrants here have regularly their backpacks and shoes stolen by people armed with machetes or guns. Things can go wrong if the migrants resist the gangs of robbers. 07/02/2017 Arriaga, Chiapas, Mexico. © Jeoffrey Guillemard
Two migrants wake up from a second night on “La Bestia" (The Beast). Around 500,000 migrants, the majority of them from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, board this train every year to try to reach the United States. The train which carries goods like corn, cement or minerals is regularly stopped to be inspected by the Mexican Migration Police (INM). Risks of boarding this train are high and many are victims of armed robbery and amputation following a fall. Some use a rope or a belt to avoid falling down during the night. Since 9, May 2014 migrants are banned from travelling on the train y railways operators. 22/04/2017 San Manuel, Tabasco, Mexico. © Jeoffrey Guillemard
Young migrants resting after having walked about ten kilometers between the city of Arriaga (Chiapas) and Chahuites (Oaxaca). The water they drink comes from a cow trough. A few hours later after this picture was taken, the Mexican Migration Police (INM) carried out an operation across the fields and two migrants were captured. This cross-country route is especially feared by migrants. 07/02/2017 Arriaga, Chiapas, Mexico. © Jeoffrey Guillemard
A member of the National Guard monitors the arrival of migrants on the banks of the Suchiate River, on the border between Mexico and Guatemala. In March 2019 President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) reached an agreement with Donald Trump and deployed the National Guard to stop the arrival of migrants at Mexico's southern border. In 2021, at the end of Donald Trump's mandate, Mexico continued to prohibit migrants to enter in the country. 19/01/2021 Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas, Mexico. © Jeoffrey Guillemard
Norma (L) is the founder of “Las Patronas”, a grass root charity that gives food to the migrants travelling on board the train nicknamed by the migrants "La Bestia" (The Beast) that crosses Mexico from South to North. “Las Patronas” began first on February 14, 1995, the day Leonila Vazquez and her daughter Norma Romero, came back from the market and saw the freight train passing with migrants on board asking them for food. All they could do at that time was to throw them their breakfasts they just bought without really understanding the situation. Since then around ten women prepare bags of food on a daily basis while waiting for the train to pass through their village. 17/03/2017 Amatlán de los Reyes, Veracruz, Mexico. © Jeoffrey Guillemard
In La 72 shelter for migrants in the town of Tenosique, the meals offered are mainly made up of corn tortillas and red beans. That evening, after a phone call from a farmer, a group of migrants equipped with machetes and kitchen knives went to cut up a cow that had died of natural causes that was offered by the farmer. The La 72 shelter was named after the 2010 San Fernando massacre of 72 migrants by Los Zêtas, a drug cartel in Tamaulipas state in northern Mexico. 10/03/2017 Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico. © Jeoffrey Guillemard
Central American migrants who are members of the first caravan look at the freight train hoping for an imminent departure. After more than 250 km travelled solely on foot, the caravan members hope to be able to continue their journey aboard “La Bestia" (The Beast). 28/03/18 Arriaga, Chiapas, Mexico. © Jeoffrey Guillemard
Norma, the founder of “Las Patronas”, takes a group of migrants in her car to help them catch a bus to reach the nearest town. The group is afraid to cross the city because it is guarded by the Mexican Migration Police (INM). After almost a month of high-risk travel, being deported is not an option for these migrants desperate to reach the United States despite all the hardships on the way. 15/03/2017 Amatlán de los Reyes, Veracruz, Mexico. © Jeoffrey Guillemard
Funeral of Ingrid, 29 years old, found in a secret grave at the border with the United States after having disappeared for 5 years. Members of the organisation COFAMIPRO (National Union of Families of Disappeared Migrants) accompanied the family throughout the recovery of the body. 23/01/2019 El Progreso, Honduras. © Jeoffrey Guillemard
Two children play in the sand next to the wall that separates Mexico from the United States. In Tijuana the border started to be demarcated with a mere fence in 1990 under George Bush Sr presidency. From 1993, Bill Clinton had an impassable fence of 14 kilometres built. Today Donald Trump is completing this dispositive to prevent migrants from reaching the United States. 08/05/2017 Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. © Jeoffrey Guillemard

Photographer: Jeoffrey Guillemard
Nationality: french 
Based in: Mexico
Website: www.jeoffreyguillemard.fr
Instagram: @jeoffreyguillemard

Jeoffrey Guillemard was born in 1986 in Nancy, France. He has been working in South America and America since 2006, primarily in Mexico where he now lives. He started as a self taught photographer and in 2014 he followed the EMI-CFD photojournalism training in Paris, France. His work focuses on contemporary social issues such as migration, sexuality, religious practices and social movements.
He is a member of the HAYTHAM PICTURES agency (distributed by Agence Rea in France).
Publications include The Washington Post, Le Monde, D La Repubblica, Bloomberg Businessweek, Spiegel Online, VICE, Libération, 6Mois, Society, So Foot, Pèlerin, La Croix, Les Echos, Causette, Courrier International…