In 2014, there was a surge in migration of youth from Central America to the US, with over 50,000 unaccompanied minors from the Northern Triangle detained at the border while attempting to enter the US illegally (according to US Customs and Border Protection statistics). Although many in the US are aware of this, and it's been highly politicized, the motivation behind this migration is less well understood.
There are overwhelming amounts of statistics to cite, but both statistically and anecdotally the main reasons for this migration include high levels of poverty, violence, and crime in the Northern Triangle.
According to official statistics, in 2014, 59.3% of Guatemala's population was living below the poverty line, and just over half of those living below the poverty line were indigenous. In 2016, over 66% of the population of Honduras was living in poverty, with one out of every five people living in extreme poverty. And around 41% of El Salvador's population was living below the poverty line, with 10% experiencing extreme poverty.
While it's true that these numbers have declined since the early 2000s, a significant portion of the population of the Northern Triangle lives in poverty or extreme poverty.
Sonido del Movimiento developed in 2016 after assessing the causes of the steep migration of children out of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras (also known as the "Northern Triangle") into the US.
why central america?
Additionally, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala are three of the five countries with the highest murder rates in the world. And all three countries are in the top six when looking at child homicide rates, as well. (For more information on child homicides, see pages 22-25 of this report by "Save the Children.")
Specifically, many youth from this region are fleeing gang recruitment and gang-related violence (read more here and here.) This is a danger especially for youth, because gang recruitment begins young, and often whole families are threatened. In some cases, children are unable to continue their studies because of gang violence, which threatens education as a whole in this region.
In general, high violence and crime rates are often correlated with high levels of poverty, which is demonstrably the case in the Northern Triangle. Life in these conditions is tough for the average adult, and the impact that such conditions have on children is severe. The children are simply born into these conditions--it's not their fault and they have little control over these situations--yet they are deeply impacted. Growing up in poverty, surrounded by high levels of violence, and having their education threatened by these things often means these kids feel like they don't have a different way forward and unhealthy cycles are perpetuated. This is why it's incredibly important to meet these kids where they are, in their communities, and work to nurture resiliency. SDM aims to see kids able to bounce back and thrive despite these difficult circumstances, and providing music and dance as tools to achieve this is a simple, strong, and creative way to work within this context.
These statistics are jarring, and hearing how these very real problems affect the lives of people we've come to know is difficult, but it's because of this that SDM is committed to working specifically with children from this region of the world.
Source: Save the Children
Source: International Monetary Fund
Source: The Wall Street Journal