To the Teacher:
During October 2018, thousands of Central American men, women and children have been making their way north from Honduras, through Guatemala and Mexico, towards the U.S. border. They have left their home countries to get away from violent drug wars, gang threats, sexual assault, economic hardship, and corruption. Most of them are from Honduras, but along the way others from El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico have joined the caravan.
Central American migration to Mexico and the U.S. is nothing new. For decades, people have left their homes to escape the violent, crime-ridden “Northern Triangle” of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador in search of better lives, opportunities, and safety.
Large groups of people fleeing their homes in this way have sometimes been organized by advocacy groups wanting to draw attention to the plight Central American migrants and refugees. This particular caravan, however, is different. It appears to have started spontaneously in Honduras on October 12. About 160 people gathered at the bus terminal in the gang-ridden city of San Pedro Sula to set off on the dangerous journey north. They had been planning the trip for over a month with the goal of escaping the unemployment and violence in their home country.
By the time the caravan reached the Guatemala-Mexico border on October 19, word of mouth and social media had helped it had swell to over 1,600 people. Migrants and refugees banded together because the dangerous journey north is safer to make in large numbers. Central Americans traveling alone or in small groups have been known to be vulnerable to kidnapping by gangs and shake-downs by local officials. Some have even been killed.
As the caravan has been making its way north through Mexico, President Donald Trump has turned to Twitter to stoke fears about these people, trying to energize his Republican base around the issue of border security in the run-up to the November 6 2018 mid-term election. Meanwhile, the caravan grew to over 7,000 people, stretching as far as the eye can see.
Read the following quote by Maya Angelou out loud:
“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
Send a talking piece around (or have a go-round without a talking piece), inviting students to reflect on this quote.
Note that while we ache to live in a “safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned,” many of us do not live in such a place. In fact, some people live in places that are so unlivable or unsafe that they must leave.
Tweet About the “Migrant” Caravan Fleeing Honduras
Ask students if they know what issue in the news the following tweet refers to:
Elicit and explain that the tweet refers to the thousands of Central American men, women, and children that are making their way north from Honduras, through Guatemala and Mexico, towards the U.S. border. They are leaving their home countries to get away from violent drug wars, gang threats, sexual assault, poverty, unemployment, and corruption. Most of them are from Honduras, but along the way others from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico have joined the caravan.
Ask students to look at the image. Ask:
- What do you see?
- What do you notice about the people in the image?
- How do you think these people are feeling?
The caption reads: “Another migrant caravan is heading to the U.S. Trump has already taken note.”
Ask students, what does this caption tell you?
Elicit and explain that this is not the first “migrant” caravan making its way north from countries like Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico. In the past, caravans such as this have been organized by advocacy groups wanting to draw attention to the plight Central American refugees for years.
But this caravan is different in that it appears to have started spontaneously in Honduras on October 12, 2018. About 160 people gathered at the bus terminal in the gang-ridden city of San Pedro Sula to set off on the dangerous journey north. They had been planning the trip for over a month with the goal of escaping the poverty, violence, and corruption in their home country.
As the caravan has been making its way north, President Donald Trump has taken note. He recently turned to Twitter to stoke fears about the growing size of the caravan and the people in it, trying to energize his Republican base around the issue of border security in the run-up to the November 6 mid-term election. Meanwhile, the caravan has grown to 7,000, stretching as far as the eye can see.
Photo Investigation: Why Are People Leaving Home?
Use the first four images in the following slideshow to further explore some of the reasons for the migrant caravan making its way to the U.S. border: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/central-americas-violent-northern-triangle
(Note: Cursor down to find the slideshow. If a caption appears on the first image, click “hide caption” on the lower right corner of the slide.)
Tell students that they will be asked to investigate the images in this slideshow in a very specific way.
For the first four images, use the following five steps to explore the reasons for people leaving their homes:
1. Objective Description
2. Assigning Adjectives
3. Moving Beyond the Image
5. The Caption
These images help set the stage for the rest of the slideshow, which gives us insight into the migrant caravan.
Step 1: Objective Description. Ask students first to look at the picture and describe what they see. Instruct them to describe what is in the image objectively, only what can be seen. If students draw any conclusions or make any interpretations, redirect them to what’s actually in the image.
With image 1, for example, students may share that they see clothes hanging on a line, in front of a blue and brown structure. There is a little child sitting at the bottom of the image, in front of the structure, touching her face with her hand. The child’s eyes are partially closed. The ground under the child’s feet is gray and there are gray rocks scattered around the child and structure as well. There is a bottle lying by the structure. The child is wearing a pink, white, and orange dress. On the left of the image, there is a black barrier, behind which there are more clothes, trees, and behind that some sky. To the right of the image are a blue and pink bench and chair, etc. Try to have students share as complete a description of the image as possible by asking, every time a student shares, what else they can see.
Step 2: Assign Adjectives. Next, ask students to move beyond the mere description. Ask: If you were to use adjectives to describe this place, what might they be? What feelings does this place bring up for you? Why?
Step 3: Moving Beyond the Image. Next, ask students: If you were the photographer and you zoomed out from this image, what do you think you might see? What do you think is beyond this image?
Step 4: Interpretations. Next, ask students to guess where and what this place might be. Ask them to explain why they think that.
Step 5: The Caption. Click “show caption” in the lower right corner of the image. Ask students to read the caption. Compare and contrast it to what students have shared about the image so far.
Take students through this process for the first four pictures, then ask:
- How do you think you would feel about living in a place like the one represented by these images? Why?
- Why do you think people have decided to leave their homes to join this caravan?
Show students the following tweet:
Invite students to reflect on President Trump’s tweet using some or all of the following questions:
- Who does President Trump blame for the caravan of people heading towards the U.S.?
- Thinking back to what we just discussed, how do you feel about that?
- Who and what would you blame for the people in the caravan attempting to escape their home countries?
- Why do you think President Trump mentions the midterm elections?
Read out loud the segment from USA Today below:
President Donald Trump is increasingly seizing on the caravan as an issue in the midterm elections hoping the images of migrants walking through Mexico will energize GOP voters in battleground states and potentially tip the balance in the fight for control of Congress. ….
Trump said at a rally Wednesday in Wisconsin …. “The crisis on the border – and it is a crisis, it’s crazy – right now is the sole result of Democratic laws and activist Democrat judges that do whatever they want.” ….
The president has frequently invoked the caravan, estimated to include as many as 7,000 people, during rallies …. In addition to holding the migrants up as a symbol for ineffective policy, he has also sprinkled in claims that the group includes “unknown Middle Easterners” or that Democrats are funding the caravan. Pressed by reporters for evidence of those claims, Trump said border agents regularly stop potential terrorists, before adding that “there is no proof of anything.”
Invite students to reflect on Trump’s attempts to make the caravan a political issue, right before the midterm elections on November 6:
- What do you think the crisis is that President Trump referred to in his Wisconsin rally?
- What are the reasons President Trump names for this crisis?
- If there is a crisis related to the caravan, what do you think it is?
- What are the reasons for this crisis, in your opinion?
- Why do you think President Trump would add information to this story that he later adds “there is no proof of”?
NY Times Video: 'Everyone is Tired"
Play the following New York Times video, Life Inside the Migrant Caravan: ‘Everyone Is Tired’:
Discuss the video using some or all of the following questions:
- What are your thoughts and feelings about this video?
- What did you notice about the people in this video?
- What do people say about their reasons for leaving their homes?
- What is this journey like for the youngest and weakest among them?
- What does the young mother Jocelyn say about other people in the caravan?
- How do people along the way respond to those in the caravan?
- What is Jocelyn’s goal? Why do you think that is?
- What is she afraid of? Why do you think that is?
The piece ends with the following quote: “Today’s trial of endurance is over, but tomorrow it all starts again.”
- What does this quote refer to?
- How do you think people in the caravan are feeling? Why?
If you were able to give a message to those in the caravan, what would it be?
Extension Activity: Migrants? Or Refugees?
Are the people who have joined the caravan “migrants”? Or “refugees”? The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, notes that in this case, which word we use makes a huge difference.
Ask students to research why, according UNHCR, “word choice matters.” They can start here:
Other sources to deepen student understanding of the plight of refugees can also be found at the UNHCR website, including videos explaining the plight of refugees, video games, lists of things we can all do to help refugees.