Content Warning: This exhibition contains highly sensitive and graphic content, including photographs, objects, films and recordings related to migrant hardships and death. We invite you to proceed with caution.
LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes presents Hostile Terrain ‘94: The Undocumented Migration Project, a multi-media exhibition based on the collaborative research by Jason De León, Anthropologist and Executive Director of the Undocumented Migration Project, Inc. (UMP); Michael Wells, UMP Co-curator and Photographer; and Austin Ella Shipman, UMP Assistant Director and Co-curator, with LA Plaza’s Curatorial team led by Karen Crews Hendon, Senior Curator, that records the journeys and testimonies of undocumented migrants and their families who attempt to cross the U.S.–Mexico border. Traversing remote and depopulated regions on foot from Central American jungles, through Mexico, and into the Sonoran Desert, this installation tells their stories and experiences to raise awareness about the dangers and deaths happening almost daily since 1994 as a direct result of the immigration enforcement strategy known as “Prevention Through Deterrence” (PTD), a policy designed to discourage people from crossing borders near urban ports-of-entry.
The exhibition includes an array of multi-sensorial components that speak directly to the migrant experience, such as photographic narratives of border crossers, found objects left behind by migrants in the desert, videos, an interactive story-recording studio where the public may share their personal immigration stories, and a 16-foot long participatory wall map of the Arizona/Mexico border containing hand-written toe tags with QR codes that connect to online content regarding migrant issues along America’s southern border representing people who have died while crossing the border between the mid-1990s and 2022. This collaborative map memorial is filled-out by teams of volunteers who publicly place the tags in the exact locations on the map where individuals were found. The physical act of writing out the names and information invites participants to reflect, witness, and stand in solidarity with those who have lost their lives in search of a better one.
Together with the Colibrí Center of Human Rights, an organization that grew from the Missing Migrant Project, they work with families of disappeared migrants to find truth and justice through forensic science, investigation, and community organizing, and continue to make progress on the cases of missing and unidentified individuals. Hostile Terrain ‘94: The Undocumented Migration Project raises global awareness through community outreach about this humanitarian crisis, while working to inspire positive social change and immigration reform.
The LA Plaza Curatorial Team includes Karen Crews Hendon, Senior Curator, Esperanza Sanchez, Associate Curator, Carolyn Lopez, Assistant Curator, and Thomas Rosenquist, Senior Preparator. Exhibition Design by Karen Crews Hendon and Thomas Rosenquist. Graphic Design by Estefania Aguilar. Exhibition Installation by Summer Bernal, James Brown, Arturo Guzman, Greg Jezewski, and Kris Zaycher.
Image: Michael Wells, Migrants On Train, Chiapas, México, 2016, Photograph, Courtesy of The Undocumented Migration Project