Last week, Panama’s government announced a new campaign to prevent people from taking the deadly journey through the Darién Gap, one of the world’s most dangerous migrant routes. In 2023, more than 300,000 people have already crossed through the jungle isthmus. Panamanian officials estimate the number will reach 400,000 by the end of the year, which is twice the number of people who made the trek in 2022.
An untold number of people on their journey north will never make it out of the Darién alive.
Why do people keep risking their lives in the Darién? Caitlyn Yates, a PhD student in socio-cultural anthropology at the University of British Columbia, has spent years researching this question. Yates has been traveling to the Darién Gap since 2018 to document changes in the region and interview hundreds of people who have chosen to take the risky journey. Her work has especially focused on Black migrants who face some of the worst prejudice and treatment on their journeys north. “They risk being robbed, kidnapped or detained repeatedly, which other migrants don’t face to the same degree,” says Yates.
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