2019 - Ongoing
I first began photographing Central American asylees in 2018 at the El Barretal shelter, a makeshift open-air space that was housing approximately 2,000 migrants. I documented a group of dancers as they brought donations, money, and dance to refugees. Seeing how communal dance seemed to bring joy, laughter, and a sense of community — something equally as crucial as material resources — evoked the idea that the refuge of community is an important story. Later, when I began photographing Central American migrants and asylees living at Casa de Luz (CDL), a shelter for LGBTQ+ folks and families with young children, I focused on documenting the network of activists/advocates collaborating to build community and provide resources to refugees fleeing violence, political instability, and deadly homophobia.
As asylees faced closed borders and unsympathetic American refugee policies, networked community care was especially integral in the survival of LGBTQ+ individuals and families traveling with children. Casa de Luz is one of few shelters catering to these two groups collectively. While it is certainly not a solution for the anti-refugee policies of the American government or a solution to the rampant homophobia faced by LGBTQ migrants, it is a remedy to the physical and mental dangers of surviving such tribulations alone.
The residents of Casa de Luz find acceptance, sustenance, connection, physical safety, community care, and a home. They also pool legal and financial resources as they navigate the asylum process. The importance of access to such resources alongside fostering belonging, confirming identity, providing a safe space for people to be themselves, and a safe space in the migrant and pandemic crisis can’t be overstated. Ultimately, my project has become about this — the vital importance of building community in the face of systemic injustice.