Vogt, Wendy. “Crossing Mexico: Structural violence and the commodification of undocumented Central American migrants.” American Ethnologist, 40(4) (2013): 764-780.

This image titled “Migrants ride on top of a freight train near Palenque, Chiapas, February 2009” is from Vogt’s article and highlights part of the migrant journey from Central America through Mexico where trains like the one pictured above along with “La Bestia” are sites where transportation and migration become vessels that produce economic profit through extortion, robbery, and kidnapping, and often result in dismemberment or death from traveling on or falling off of the trains.

The author tracks the journeys through Mexico of undocumented Central American migrants and how such migrant bodies have become subject to violence, exploitation, and commodification all in the name of capitalism. Drawing on her fieldwork in migrant shelters, the author argues that Central American migrants are exposed to structural violence that is enforced by social and economic practices that profit from human mobility such as kidnapping and smuggling. The author describes the “Cachuco Industry” in Mexico, which labels Central American migrants as “dirty pigs”, and aims to exploit them for their monetary value through extortion, labor, etc. The author also argues that violence including rape, dismemberment, and death is used as a central tactic to drive such industries in which human beings are sites of commodification and economic desire. In describing such a journey, the author lastly aims to argue that such structural violence is “historically deep” and that such processes are not new to undocumented migrants, but are merely enforced by legacies that they have been exposed to their entire lives.

Wendy Vogt is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. Her anthropology background supports her fieldwork experience in which this article’s arguments and findings are based off of as she tells the stories and journeys of victims of such migrant commodification. Vogt presents her findings in ten sections throughout the article that have titles such as “Threads of Violence, Migration, remittances, and commodified labor”, “Money is thicker than blood: Human smuggling, Kidnappings, organized crime, and Mexico’s drug war”, and “When safe places become unsafe”. In sectioning her article in such a way, Vogt is able to present her information in not only an organized fashion, but also in a way in which the reader is able to understand the transformation from human to commodity as she focuses on not only violence and how it functions within the sphere of commodification and exploitation of Central American migrants, but she also links such practices and processes to the current social, political, and economic state of Mexico, which increases the intensification and brutality of such structural violence, and the grueling experience of Central Americans in their quest to migrate through Mexico.

This source’s importance lies in its ability to not only highlight infringements upon Central American migrant human rights, but also its ability to describe such violations being perpetrated by other countries in Latin America. This article is thought-provoking as it places Latin Americans and countries in Latin America as both victims and perpetrators of human rights violations, which is a complex issue that needs to be further discussed and analyzed in order to understand how such processes and institutions allow for such different experiences across Latin America. This article is also important for future research on human rights in relation to how migration stimulates or influences how many human rights violations occur in Latin America, as well as the types of violence that migrants experience based off of pre-existing institutions across Latin America.

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