Photos and investigation by Seth Berry; words by me.
LOCAL PASTOR OMAR GUZMAN convened his nightly vigil on a dirt intersection on a recent evening in Triunfo de la Cruz, a dusty hamlet on Honduras’ windblown Caribbean coast. It was several weeks since the forced disappearance of five black Honduran, or “Garifuna,” men from this community, and local residents have been praying ever since.
Twelve armed men in police uniforms and balaclavas entered the town in the predawn hours of July 19 in unmarked, brand-new pickups, despite a COVID-19 curfew. They abducted the five men at gunpoint. Eyewitnesses reported the assailants wore uniforms of the “DPI,” or the investigative arm of the Honduran National Police, but seemed disorganized and amateur. They forced the men into their trucks and drove off into the night. Nothing has been seen or heard since of either the masked men or their captors.
ARNOVIS, AT TWENTY-TWO, had been content with living a quiet life. He worked the night shift at a turtle hatchery on a remote Salvadoran island. He lived with his family and five year old in the thatched home he grew up in. Ahead of him lay a future that appeared uneventful and peaceful.
But that future became impossible after a perceived slight at a soccer game threw him afoul of MS-13, a violent street gang that’d taken root on the island. “Sos tumba,” gang members warned him on anonymous phone calls—“You’re dead.” Facing imminent death in El Salvador, Arnovis was forced to flee, soon thrusting him into the nightmare that is our global border regime.
In The Dispossessed, John Washington, an activist with No More Deaths–No Mas Muertos, longtime Spanish translator, and journalist, takes Arnovis’s story—his harrowing escapes from El Salvador and repeated rejections for asylum in the US—and uses it breathe feverish life into that nightmarish global border system. By illustrating the life of a man torn apart by asylum, Washington paints a jolting vision of a world of cleaved by global economic apartheid.