Children on the Move


he multimedia you’re about to explore is like a mosaic or patchwork made of many different pieces representing the lives, experiences, and knowledge of (im)migrant children and adolescents in the Americas. The visual format we use to present these “pieces” takes the shape of a kaleidoscope, because the stories and testimonies they share, and geographies they journey through are dynamic and constantly changing. The world they create and live in transforms as they go on their journeys, both physical and imagined, across several territories and borders. 

This mosaic-kaleidoscope is an ethical and political approach to demonstrate and assert that without taking into account children and adolescents, it is impossible to begin to understand the global phenomenon of migration in today’s world. This kaleidoscope is also a reaction and a stance against the historic inequalities that drive these children and adolescents out of their communities. This work is a demand for greater empathy for them when they must leave in search of their parents or other relatives; and a gesture of solidarity when they flee to build a new, alternative life.  Migrant children and adolescents on the move, challenge our preconceptions regarding childhood, innocence, maturity, dependence, geographic distance, and time. For this reason, this multimedia project is also a proposal to transform research methods on migrant children and adolescents, to empower them, and share their knowledge and experiences. 

We believe child and adolescent migration is an act of emancipation and rebellion against oppressive and violent regimes throughout the American continent. Thus, we also think their movement urges us to reflect on today’s world, to build societies where borders are not walls that separate us, but instead are spaces to meet, recognize each other and learn. 

How to capture the diversity and complexity of the lives of children and adolescents in the Americas? How to connect unique experiences in apparently distant and unrelated spaces and times? What does the life of a Venezuelan migrant have in common with the lives of an Ecuadorian boy, a Mexican boy, a Brazilian girl, a Salvadoran boy, a Honduran boy, a Mixteco Indian boy, or a Mexican-American girl? 

What does migration mean to them? What is to them the meaning of borders and of being a migrant?

What games do they play? Who takes care of them? How do they grow-up in the absence of their fathers and mothers who migrated? How do they live in a language alien to them? How do they take ownership, adapt, and transform the societies that have called them “illegal”? Where do they seek refuge? How do they develop their own political awareness? How do they fight for their rights? Who supports them?

What do they imagine? What are their memories made up of? How do they cross and draw the continent’s geography as migrant children and adolescents?

What does all this tell us about current migration in the hemisphere?

The search for answers to these and other questions drives this collective and trans-disciplinary project. The project transformed into a patchwork of media sharing the experiences of migrant children and adolescents in the continent. Its uniqueness lies in its creation from a variety of elements constructed with different voices and experiences, and from diverse places. Like in any patchwork, each part is unique and helps develop and give sense to the whole.  

The stories of these children and adolescents form this single whole. Each narration has a rhythm and uniqueness of its own; each diagram, drawing, map, or photo has a unique meaning, and each representation reveals geographical and historical realities that, though unparalleled, are at the same time part of a complexwhole, of children and adolescents on the move. For these reasons, the creation of this patchwork-kaleidoscope was possible. 

This project was made possible through the support of the National Geographic Society to Colectiva Infancias, a transnational research network. The group was created in 2015 by women anthropologists, psychologists, geographers, education specialists, and documentary photographers. For many years, we have worked with children and adolescents and their families in different places in the Americas. 

The multimedia presentation Children on the move: an Ethnographic Patchwork of the Americas aims to make accessible to wider audiences research on children and adolescents that show child migration as a historical and political process central to the dynamics of continental migration. We advocate child migration should be studied and understood as a phenomenon on its own, and not merely as a subsidiary aspect of adult migration.

The main goals of this project are the following: first, to highlight the lives and experiences of children and adolescents to acknowledge their theoretical, political, and social worth. Second, to work together with children and adolescents to transform academic research findings into tools, materials, and products in such a way that they may resound with a broad and diverse public. The effect we’re looking for is to go beyond the mere production of knowledge.

We think that criminalization and punishment policies towards migration affect children and adolescents disproportionately. There is also an inequitable distribution of resources and spaces that acknowledge their knowledge and experiences, and the ways they represent and construct a narrative about themselves. Other questions stemming from this inequitable distribution of power include how children and adolescents on the move question the hegemonic powers of society and denounce what happens to them and, finally, how they develop just and dignified alternative realities for themselves and their families. This project seeks to make a small contribution to the fight tocombat the inequalities children and adolescents face when trying to represent themselves, and provide a medium for their voices to be heard.

Caravana - Portada

We recognize and defend migration as a right. We believe that guaranteeing the right to move, in particular for children and adolescents, is essential to build livelihoods and possible alternative movement in the continent. Children and adolescents flee violence in their home communities. They leave in search of their parents and other relatives. They cross borders to try and rebuild their lives in different spaces. These facts are acts of emancipation and rebellion against oppressive and violent regimes. 

Ours is an effort to assume an ethical, political, and methodological stance, a way of doing research intended to pursue involvement in social phenomena and dynamics, not only to observe and study them. Accordingly, from the beginning of this project, we asked ourselves not only how to investigate and document, but how to support and build solidarity and hospitable spaces, and build spaces of commitment and action with those who travel the various dimensions of child migration, mainlytheir causes  and effects. 

This multimedia presentation is not neutral to pain, oppression, and suffering inflicted on children and adolescents, whose lives are disrupted by dynamics and processes we seek to understand and document. The research effort will focus on the experiences and knowledge of persons who have always had a voice, but historically have not been heard and have had little chances for self-representation. 

With these ideas as building-blocks, the patchwork intends to highlight, with a critical lens, the following migration dynamics: 

  • Children and adolescents who accompany their mothers in seeking sanctuary in churches in New York as a defense strategy against the threat of deportation. 
  • Venezuelan children and adolescents displaced along the border with Colombia. 
  • Children and adolescents that have returned from the United States to their parents’ home communities in Mexico. 
  • Migrant Mexican indigenous persons and workers that live within various borders in one single territory. 
  • Central American children and adolescents who between 2018 and 2019 joined migrant caravans as a mobility and protection strategy. 
  • Children and adolescents from communities in the Ecuadorian Andes, sons and daughters of immigrants in the United States that grow in the absence of their parents, minded by their caregivers. 
  • Brazilian children and adolescents that move from legal to illegal migrant status and their experiences in school. 
Instantánea de la vida como estudiante binacional

This multimedia presentation emerges at a time duing which the involvement and leadership of migrant children and adolescents run the risk of being understood only through violent and potentially traumatic processes of detention, family separation, or deportation, among others. 

Recognizing these realities is essential. However, this patchwork project documents and reflects the dynamics and spaces that allow children and adolescents to weave and sustain their daily lives. The project explores and highlights the circumstances that let them grow and re-create themselves using their own experiences and knowledge not determined by violence or victimization. In every experience and context of violence, subjection, and death they have had to endure, they show their ability to produce and reproduce bonds of love, solidarity, trust, support, and emancipation. These are emotional, social, and political bonds crucial to sustaining their families’, communities’, and societies’ vital ties, and to develop new possibilities for the future. 

In Colectiva Infancia, we hope this research effort helps to open new horizons in conversation and action throughout the American continent, and strengthen the work on migrant children and adolescents, and, ultimately, serves in some way to defend their rights. 

Migrant caravans, one step closer

During 2018 and 2019 the large Central American migrant collectives organized in caravans to walk together and protect themselves in their transit through Mexico. It was a phenomenon that caught the attention of the entire world. The stories of these boys and girls that formed part of this historical act of displacement provide us with an opportunity to understand this phenomenon from their point of view.

Children in Sanctuary

Dulce, Daniela and David have lived in sanctuary, together with their mother, in the Church of Holyrood in Manhattan, New York, as a strategy to protect themselves against a deportation order. “It’s like playing hide and seek,” they say. They experience a reality in which their liberty and family are at play.

Jumping over the Wall

Cheyo, Samuel, Javier and other adolescents tell us about the journey they have to take in order to exercise their right to migrate. The construction of borders and walls that criminalize and punish their right to mobility threaten their lives, their integrity and their right to a better life.


Bruna lives in the United States and her relationship with Brazil, her native country, is full of worries about immigration, papers, lawyers, the fear of deportation and one key phrase in Brazilian Portuguese that describes the most prominent feeling that Bruna has: nostalgia for the home she left behind, saudade de casa.

The Caregivers

“The earth becomes an orphan,” say the grandmothers and auntie caregivers. They speak of the impact that migration has had on Ecuador. “The grandmothers also become orphaned,” they say to refer to the reality that their young grandchildren have left to reunite with their parents in the United States.

Silvia: From being a farm worker to a young refugee

The story of Silvia, who went from being a day worker to refugee. She was a young Na Savi (mixteca) girl who, after leaving her indigenous community, had to face and cross many borders and barriers related to gender, class, language, identity and race. Her story begins at 8 years old.

Family Separation

The detention of thousands of migrant families and the separation of fathers, mothers and children under the Trump administration was a policy meant to criminalize migration, a policy that outraged the whole world. Unfortunately, these practices are not new. Michelle, Lady, Daira and Alan tell us about the consequences that these cruel measures have had on their lives.

Collective migration as care and resistance

Many children, adolescents and youth traveled unaccompanied in the migrant caravans that crossed Mexico in 2018 and 2019. For them, the caravan was a strategy for security, protection and autonomy. It also became a space of celebration and for them to make their own decisions and discover their own identity.

Epifanio, Memories of a Na Savi Boy

Epifanio shares his story and what it means to be a migrant, indigenous and grow up with the vicissitudes that is migration. Through autobiographical short films, we embark on the life journey of a young Mixtec boy who left his town to work in the agricultural fields, and later on, to cross the border.

Open Arms on the Road

Children that travel through Mexico are exposed to many dangers, threats, discrimination and xenophobic policies. The shelters run by religious communities and civil society represent sanctuaries, shelters and places of refuge where they can rest and feel protected.

Back Together Again

Luis is an adolescent that has spent a year in the Immigration Center in Cúcuta, on the border between Colombia and Venezuela. He debates whether or not to return to Venezuela, his country, or to fight for his right to migrate and reunite with his family in Colombia.

Those Who Stay

In Ecuador, migration is a point of departure and arrival. Life goes on for the boys and girls growing up in a context where their loved ones have decided to take the road to the North. The day to day passes, toying with the absence of those that left.

Learning How to Return

Alondra, a student in her last year of high school. Her story represents the experiences of more than half a million boys and girls born in the United States that are now stuying in Mexican schools, because their families were repatriated. Alondra helps us understand the long process of learning how to return.

Siblings in the Caravan

The Central American siblings Kevin and Natalie, who traveled in the first Migrant Caravan together across Mexico in 2018, were stranded for a little less than two months in northern Mexico. Their journey to the United States transformed into something much more complex and challenging than they could have imagined.


Project carried out with the support of National Geographic Society

General coordination

Valentina Glockner y Soledad Álvarez Velasco 

Original research development

Valentina Glockner y Soledad Álvarez Velasco 

Research: Colectiva Infancias

Ana Luz Minera Castillo
Cinthya Santos Briones
Elisa Sardao Colares
Gabrielle Oliveira
Nohora Constanza Niño Vega
Sarah Gallo
Soledad Álvarez Velasco
Valentina Glockner

Community researchers


Aída Yanza
Oswaldo Suin 


Epifanio García Moreno
Silvia Pantaleón Martínez
Alondra*, su familia, y sus profesores del bachillerato


Invited photographers:

Ernesto Álvarez Avendaño
Luis Kelly
Pocho Álvarez Wandermberg

Style correction

Diana Goldberg

English translation:

Andrea Ortiz

Multimedia and narrative advisory

Coordinación de contenidos: Paloma Martínez
Ilustración y collage: Lucila Sandoval
Diseño y programación: #HackeoCultural

Colectiva Infancias wishes to thank

National Geographic Society, El Colegio de Sonora, ECA Puebla, Boston College, Amarela Varela Huerta, Daniela Rea, Alfonso Díaz, Anna Lee Mraz, Sergio Beltrán.

Other Acknowledgments

We would like to thank those who made possible each text and multimedia presented here:

Thanks from Nohora Niño

Zoraida Martínez Melgarejo
Madre comunitaria
Willinton Muñoz
Coordinador, Centro de Migraciones Scalabrini
Casa Venezuela La Parada
Fundación venezolanos en Cúcuta


Solymari del Carmen Rojas Briceño
Franklin Díaz
Martel Latorre



Thanks from Ana Luz

Alejandro Solalinde Guerra (Director del Albergue “Hermanos en el Camino”, sede Ixtepec, Oaxaca)

Armando Vilchis Vargas (Director del Albergue “Hermanos en el Camino”, sede Metepec, Estado de México).

Catalina Cortés Diaz (por su apoyo en el trabajo de campo y en las actividades pedagógicas y lúdicas con los niños).

Luis Kelly (fotografías en blanco y negro).

Un agradecimiento especial a todos los niños, niñas y adolescentes participantes y entrevistados.




Thanks from Soledad Álvarez Velasco

Aída Yanza
Johnny Guambaña
Fausto Ávila
Francisco Xavier Hurtado Caicedo
Franklin Ortiz
Hernán Rodas
Nubia Campoverde
Margarita Velasco Abad
Oswaldo Suin
Pocho Álvarez Wandermberg 

A very special thanks to the caregivers Doña Beatriz, Doña Leonor, Doña Rosa, Angelita, Doña María Rosa, Ángel, Doña María, Angélica and Doña Julia; and Melanie, Evelyn, Joseph, Joselyn, Jorge, Mateo Ángel, Dayana, Sebastián, Adrián, Wilo, Lucía, Rosemary and Janine, sons and daughters of migrants. They all shared their memories, wisdom and daily experiences full of courage, strength and wisdom. Without their voices this work would not have been possible.


Thanks from Elisa Sardao Colares



Valentina Glockner Fagetti
Daniel Kent Carrasco
Áruna Glockner Kent
Tawana Yung

Observatorio de Investigación con las Infancias, de El Colegio de Sonora (odiin)

Departamento de Estudos Latino Americanos da Universidade de Brasília (ELA/UnB)

Animars Produtora

Collective migration as care and resistance (Valentina Glockner )



Doña Lucila y Don Jesús

María Auxiliadora Moreno



Jumping over the wall (Valentina Glockner )

Government shelter for returned children and youth, Nogales, Sonora.

Epifanio: memories of a Na Savi boy (Valentina Glockner )

Familias García Moreno, Moreno Solano y Guevara Moreno. 

Comunidades de Yuvinani, Montaña de Guerrero y Oacalco, Morelos. 

Escuela Emiliano Zapata, Oacalco, Morelos.

To the children and families who made this possible: García Moreno, Moreno Solano y Guevara Moreno families To the mixtec communities that welcomed me: Yuvinani, Guerrero y Oacalco, Morelos. Emiliano Zapata elementary school, Oacalco, Morelos. Na Savi children: Epifanio, Maribel, Griselda, Rocío, Miguel Ángel, Rodolfo, Delfina, Neftalí, Yahir, Antolín, Samuel, Casimiro, Andrés, Angelina, Valentina, Zenaida, Cristina, Carolina, Silvia, Ricrdo, Ana Karen, Elizabeth, Raúl, Marcelino, Rutilia, Gabino, Reinaldo, David, Rafael, Raymundo, Martina, Miguel, Concepción, Baltasar, Sandra, José Julián, Jorge, Fernando, Beltrán, Florentina, Teresa, María Estela, Flavia, Mercedes, Candelaria, Cecilia, Eusebia, Catarino, Bernardino, Pedro, Maurilio, Jaime, José Luis, Carmen, Artemio, Rosalinda, Francisco, Olegario, Aurelia, Paulino, Virginia, Rufino, Paulino, Adrían, Martina A, Rutilio, Rey, Javier, Héctor, Eusebio, Claudio, Samuel, Rosalía, Maximiliano, Marcelino, Leticia, Mercedes L., Mario, Augusto, Sergio, Rafaela, Lucas, Hermelinda, Catalina, Rosa y Serafín.

Silvia: from girl-farm worker to young refugee (Valentina Glockner)

Pantaleón Martínez, Solano Pantaleón y Pantaleón Avilés families

To the people from Atzompa, Guerrero.

Thanks from Gabrielle Oliveira

A very special thanks to the schools, teachers and teachers; to the boys and girls of Brazil. Thanks for the confidence! Special thanks Bruna (pseudonym) for all your time. 

Thanks from Cinthya Santos Briones

A special thanks to all the families and refugee children in sanctuaries: Jeanette Vizguerra, Luna Baez, Roberto Baez, Zury Baez, Amanda Morales, Dulce Carvajal, Daniela Carvajal, David Carvajal, Aura Hernández, Daniel and Camila Hernandez, Bryant Moya, Ingrid Escalada, Sujitno Sajuti, Dalhia Sajuti, Kadhim Al-Bumohammed, Jorge Taborda, Nelson Pinos, Sandra López, Edwin González, Daysi, Dayra, Alan and Lady, Hazel Mencos, Michelle Animas, Heidy Animas, Brandon Pinos, Ally Pinos, Kelly Pinos.

To faith leaders, activists, faith organizations and pro-migrants: Rev. Juan Carlos Ruiz Co-founder of the New Sanctuary Movement, Rev. Luis Barrios, Schuyler Vogel, Rev. Shawna Foster, Fray Tom Smith.



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