Abstract: In recent years, the migration of Central American youth toward the United States has captured popular attention. This paper examines the experiences of Central American youths who attempt to migrate internally before migrating internationally. Based on interviews and participant observation of Guatemalan, Honduran, and Salvadoran youths travelling through Mexico, this paper shows how some youths turn to their domestic networks to escape labor exploitation and gang violence before undertaking international journeys. The paper demonstrates how those domestic networks lead youths into contexts of poverty and violence similar to those they seek to escape; they then turn to international migrant networks in the U.S. as their next option. The paper sheds light on the unexplored issue of internal Central American youth migration and connects it to migration to the United States. The paper ultimately shows that these youths’ internal relocations fail when their domestic destinations cannot resolve the problems from which they are attempting to escape.
Angel Escamilla Garcia is a graduate student at Northwestern University.