Opening Hours: Wednesday - Sunday, 12 - 5pm | Closed Monday & Tuesday

Hostile Terrain ’94, An Immersive Telling of Border Crossing Stories, Opens Saturday, September 17

LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes presents Hostile Terrain ‘94: The Undocumented Migration Project, a multi-media exhibition that records the journeys and testimonies of undocumented migrants who attempt to cross the U.S./Mexico border. The exhibition opens on Saturday, September 17, 2022, and runs through July 9, 2023. 

 Hostile Terrain ‘94: The Undocumented Migration Project tells stories through immersive photographic narratives of the people who crossed the border, found objects left behind, films, and testimonies. A recording studio is available for the public to share their personal immigration stories, and a 16-foot wall map of the Arizona/Mexico border commemorating the deceased invites viewers to reflect on those who have lost their lives. 

The exhibition is based on the collaborative research by Jason De León, UCLA Anthropologist and Executive Director of the Undocumented Migration Project (UMP) and the Colibrí Center for Human Rights, Michael Wells, UMP Co-curator and Photographer, Austin Ella Shipman, UMP Assistant Director and Co-curator, and Perla Torres, Family Network Director of Colibrí Center for Human Rights. The exhibition is co-curated in partnership with the LA Plaza curatorial team led by Karen Crews Hendon, Senior Curator.  

On Saturday, September 17, the public can join the Undocumented Migration Project members for a conversation about the exhibition and take part in a Map Memorial Interactive Workshop. Attendees can write the names and information of deceased individuals onto toe tags and place them on the memorial map where their body was found as a demonstration of solidarity with those who have lost their lives in search of a better one. 

While traversing remote and depopulated regions on foot from the Central American jungles through Mexico and into the Sonoran Desert, undocumented migrants face substantial dangers due to the immigration enforcement strategy known as Prevention Through Deterrence (PTD) established in 1994 by the U.S. government.Research over two decades shows that PTD is a failure and only succeeded in shaping border crossing into a well-organized and violent social process.  

The UMP uses a combination of ethnographic, archaeological, forensic, and visual anthropological approaches to understand various aspects of unauthorized border crossings. They work with the Tucson, Arizona-based Colibrí Center of Human Rights to find truth and justice through reuniting families with their loved ones who perished while migrating. 

“Since 2009, the UMP has sought to shine a light on the brutal realities experienced by undocumented migrants through research, education, and public outreach,” said Jason De León. “We are incredibly thrilled and humbled to bring this ambitious exhibition, drawing on a decade and a half of work, to LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in the heart of Los Angeles. We look forward to connecting with our region’s Latinx communities to raise awareness about what is happening on the migrant trail, amplifying peoples’ voices and promoting healing and justice.”  

“This project brings awareness and aims to offer an opportunity for healing to the families who have endured the painful loss of their loved ones due to an inhumane system,” said Karen Crews Hendon, LA Plaza’s Senior Curator. “LA Plaza is a catalyst for advocacy. Bringing this project to our pueblo connects our community to networks on a national level to act collectively and demand policy reform.” 

“At a time of heightened political rhetoric about undocumented people and the ongoing deadly persecution of migrants, this is the moment to have this exhibition at LA Plaza,” states CEO Leticia Rhi Buckley. “Our responsibility is to amplify stories relevant to our community, and this exhibition aims to enable discussion and prompt action.” 



Saturday, September 17, 2022

12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.: Museum and Exhibition Open to the Public 

2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.: Conversation with Undocumented Migration Project members  

3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.: Memorial Map Interactive Workshop 


The opening day of the exhibition includes a series of interactive activities for the public.  

In addition to viewing the exhibition and taking part in a conversation with members of the Undocumented Migration Project, the public can participate in a Memorial Map interactive workshop. Attendees can write the names and information of deceased individuals onto toe tags and place them on the memorial map where their body was found as a demonstration of solidarity with those who have lost their lives in search of a better one. 


LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, 501 North Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 

The exhibition is on the second floor of the museum. The interactive activities take place on the fourth floor. 


Michael Wells, Migrants On Train, México, 2016, photograph, courtesy of The Undocumented Migration Project 

Michael Wells, Migrant Camp, Sonora Desert, Arizona, 2010, photograph, courtesy of The Undocumented Migration Project