For people migrating through Central America to the United States, the only certainty is suffering. From crossing treacherous rivers and hiding from predatory gangs in the jungles of the Darién Gap to immigration fines in Honduras and robbery and extortion in Guatemala, those who flee their countries in search of a better life often face extreme danger and violence. But this is just one part of their story.
This gallery of drawings by people who received care at mobile clinics run by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Honduras and Guatemala show how people forced from their homes also dream, create, and love. Despite the hardships, these images also represent moments of happiness, connection, and resilience along their journeys.
These words and images are reproduced with permission.
José left Honduras in search of a different life in the United States. He wrote this poem about his decision to leave:
In search of fertile land, where our dreams are fulfilled
I left my country, which is beautiful, but deficient.
Today it is my turn to be absent.
I carry my family in my mind as I chase illusions and hope.
In God we put our trust.
We trust that He will accompany us on this path, so we will glorify Him with praise.
José ends with a message of encouragement to his fellow Hondurans and other migrants: "Fuerza catracho [person from Honduras], you can do it. Cheer up migrants, yes you can."
Karen is a 12-year-old girl from Colombia traveling with her parents.
"I have been to several countries and the one I liked most was Honduras,” she said. “There I met some very good and friendly people —people I liked a lot and will miss. I’ve learned to value my brothers and sisters and my parents and to appreciate all the efforts they’ve made on my behalf. I’ve realized that family comes first, and I intend to be a good person to the people who love me."
Mapa de banderas
A group of migrants from Ecuador and Venezuela drew their route through the Americas. The jungle of the Darién Gap, which divides Colombia from Panama and is one of the riskiest parts of the route, has a prominent place on this map of flags.
Kevin Rodriguez is traveling from Guatemala to the United States. Before crossing into Mexico, he wrote: “Many people call it the ‘American dream.’ May your experiences not discourage you; may they make you stronger. As people, we are all worth the same; there are just [little] differences and different nationalities.”
Joziel is a 10-year-old Honduran boy traveling to the United States with his mother. In his drawing he depicted a tree with Christmas lights that he saw in Guatemala: "On my way I liked the Christmas lights," he wrote.
Antonella, a 17-year-old girl from Venezuela, drew her experiences while crossing the Darién jungle with her family. She described it as “a hard journey” and wrote, “United as a family and with faith in God, we were able to make this journey. Four days of mixed feelings and emotions.”
Belkis, a woman from Venezuela, crossed the Darién jungle with her two daughters. She wrote: “The beginning, September 15, our journey from Venezuela through the Darién Gap with my family. A movie in real life and based on real facts, with many mixed emotions including laughter, crying, pain, agony, hunger, thirst, sadness, fear, and anguish. We got out alive, thanks to God.” When she and her family lost their way, they met a person who told them to follow the blue signs, and they eventually made it to the far side of the jungle without incident.
Carlota, a 60-year-old woman from Venezuela, wrote: "What I really liked about the jungle was the vegetation, the nature, the pure air, among all the perceived dangers. There are lots of stumbling blocks, but there are also many beautiful things that can be appreciated on the way. I noticed the blue butterflies. It also helps to have the support of all the other people who are passing through; they helped us to endure the walk. We found springs along the way where you could drink the clean water, although lots of people drank water from [another] river which they also thought was clean."
The Valencia family
The Valencia family is from Ecuador. They wrote: “Everyone in our family has lived through this journey in the flesh. The best thing about it is what we have learned about regional foods, the landscape, the forest, the jungle. We have also learned to be more united as a family. We thank God for allowing us to stay together until we reach our destination. I would warn other groups who want to leave their country to be aware that they will leave behind their whole family and that it is a very hard experience. You should think a thousand times before making this trip. God bless all the migrants who are undertaking this journey."
José is a young man from Venezuela who crossed the Darién jungle with his friends. José drew the mountains of Las Banderas, where they went hungry, saw people die, and experienced great sadness. He wrote: “I left my country with a group of companions in search of the American dream. We have been through unimaginable things: danger, hunger, etc. This journey has taught me to be more compassionate. Every migrant who crosses the Darién jungle deserves the American dream they are looking for. We are Venezuelans in search of a better future.”
In a drawing entitled ‘Together as a family,’ Julio, a 22-year-old man from Venezuela, depicted his family’s experiences after they left their home and crossed the Darién jungle, where they “faced difficult situations: hunger, discomfort, sadness, and pain.” He listed the countries they traveled through and those they still have to cross: Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. “With faith in God, everything will be all right,” he wrote.
The handprints of six children traveling through Guatemala are accompanied by descriptions of things they have enjoyed about the journey.
“I liked the beautiful experiences such as the trail, the river, and the parrots,” wrote Jordan Adrián.
“I liked the river; the fish swimming in the river,” wrote Tatina.
Viviana wrote, “I saw small fish in the river.”
Mayte wrote, “I came through the jungle; I saw small fish and I came through the river.”
Merly wrote, “I liked listening to the fish and the monkeys.”
Kenickich wrote, “I liked that my dad helped me on the trip.”