Federico Rios Escobar, Colombia
Colombia: Green Hell
When the gigantic project of the ‘Panamericana’, a highway leading from Alaska to Argentina, was started in the 1930s, a part of the road remained unfinished. And it still is today: the Darien Gap, an almost impassable and highly dangerous jungle region in northern Colombia on the border with Panama, controlled by criminal gangs.
For some time now, more and more people from Venezuela have been using precisely this dangerous route, about 100 kilometers long, to flee their crisis-ridden country and get to the USA. There are now hundreds of thousands who have tried this route.
Photographer Federico Rios Escobar set out with a few of them for 25 days. Along the way, he captured scenes that show the hardships faced by the children of those fleeing. For days they have to cross steep mountains, ford rivers, covered in mud, clinging to the hands of their parents, who often set out wearing only sandals, without tents, without rain jackets, without flashlights, without tablets to disinfect the water they drink, and with too few provisions.
It takes at least nine days to get through this green hell to the first camp on the other side in Panama. Escobar regularly met children, including a six-year-old, who had lost their parents along the way. But he also met children who still had the strength to comfort their parents.
Photographer: Federico Rios Escobar, Colombia, for the New York Times
Federico Rios Escobar, born in 1980, is a regular contributor to the New York Times and his photos have been published in magazines such as Der Spiegel, GEO, Stern, Paris Match and National Geographic. His focus is Latin America: for many years, for example, he reported on the civil war in his home country of Colombia, among other things for Amnesty International.
Rios Escobar has won prestigious awards in different countries such as Germany, Japan, and the USA. One of his books was included in the collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art, and he has had exhibitions in Brazil, the United States, Lithuania, and the Netherlands.