Franklin had come up through central america and mexico following the dangerous migrant trails. He had left his son (shown here) and wife behind in Nicaragua hoping for a better life in the states. He told me he wanted to build a house for his mother who lived on dirt floors between corrugated tin walls and made two dollars a day washing laundry. The way north, however, is extremely dangerous. Because immigrants are undocumented through Mexico they have no real legal recource. Aware of this fact, the otherwise good people that watch them pass everyday, see opportunity: exorbitant prices, armed robbery, extortion, kidnapping, rape and murder have become normative for immigrants. To approach the police normally means deportation. They are generally complicit anyway: it's big business. Franklin had somehow navigated these trails as far as Northern Mexico where he traded his dream of work in the States for a little security: a new wife and the simple agriculture work of the people. I cant help but think he was changed by that journey. It didn't take him long before he started to see opportunity himself. He organized a gang which devastated the little village that had taken him in, stealing and butchering all the cattle: a lifetime of labor. He built an enormous house in town for himself but never one for his mother.
In Panama the road trickles out before reaching the jungles and swamps of the Darien Gap which bridges Central and South America. The Guatemalan truck drivers were the first to tell me there was no way to cross but I figured if we got that far we would just tramp through the jungle. It turned out to be ill-advised. Not only is it a jungle -chock full of panthers, jaguar, puma, coral snakes, crocodiles, malaria, yellow fever, dengue and a long list of things that can kill you- but the area is controlled by drug lords and guerilla forces. If we had made it through all of that upon entering Colombia the police would have put me in jail for illegally entering the country and Judas, also illegal, would have been sacrificed by the Department of Agriculture. It took weeks to find papers and a willing captain and even then we were forty days aboard that ship. In Colombia the donkey was refused entry and the boat was robbed by pirates in Venezuela. I guess there is no good way to cross. This is one of the few Colombian boats that bridges the two countries. It sold basic goods to the Kuni indians of Panama accepting coconuts and plantains as payment.