Crossing Mexico On "La Bestia:" The Central American Migrant Experience In The Documentary Films "Which Way Home" And "Who Is Dayani Cristal?"

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Hispanic Research Journal


This article examines two documentaries about the recent wave of Central American migrants who have attempted to reach the US by crossing Mexico atop the freight trains known as la Bestia. These films — Which Way Home (2009) by Rebecca Cammisa, and Who Is Dayani Cristal? (2013) by Marc Silver — reveal the human dimension of the Central American migration and bring to light the harsh realities that migrants encounter en route. Although these films are highly accomplished, their focus on the human dramas and immediate hazards of the journey gives little weight to the broader geopolitical issues and structural violence that have created the urgency to migrate. I contend that this is not a fault, but rather a virtue. For ultimately what these films aim to highlight is not so much the political as the tragic, that inscrutable and murky reality of human yearning and suffering. In doing so, these films help to recover aspects of the migrant experience that have been lost amid the cacophony of our present political culture.


Migration films, Central Americans, child migrants, border politics and conflicts