AMELIA FRANK-VITALE, U-M Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Amelia Frank-Vitale is a doctoral student in Anthropology at the University of Michigan. Prior to graduate school, she was a Fellow with the Institute of Current World Affairs. Based in Mexico, she studied the route that Central American migrants take, exploring the intersections of migration policy, the war against the drug cartels, and humanitarian assistance offered to the undocumented. Her current project focuses on how young Hondurans who have recently been deported from the United States and Mexico navigate return to dangerous neighborhoods and a country they had tried to leave. She holds an MA in Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs from American University and a BA in Anthropology from Yale University.
Central America is among the world’s deadliest regions; El Salvador and Honduras vie for the dubious distinction of highest homicide rate. In part, this violence has spurred a wave of undocumented migration towards the United States, as hundreds of thousands of Central Americans flee gangs, flailing criminal justice systems, and generalized, ambient violence. Children are forcibly recruited into gangs, women are routinely subject to sexual violence, and failure to pay extortion fees of a few dollars can mean a death sentence for an entire family. At the same time, clandestine migration itself can be a deadly process, as Central Americans must contend with kidnappers, extortionists, corrupt officials, drug cartels, and hostile immigration regimes in both Mexico and the United States. This paper details the many kinds of violences that Central American undocumented migrants face, linking physical violence and structural violence, illicit violence and legal violence as part of a regime that views them as disposable bodies. It looks at how violence of life in Honduras and El Salvador spills over into the violence of life in transit, all buttressed by the structural violence embedded in regional politics, the securitization of borders, and the criminalization of the undocumented. Finally, it considers violence as a kind of anti-social capital, where young Central Americans fleeing violent communities engage in violence to survive the treacherous migration landscape.
RESOURCE FOR EDUCATORS
Full text of talk: Frank-Vitale, 2016