Shortly after arriving at Brookland Middle School in Washington D.C. on a Tuesday morning, photojournalist and Pulitzer Center grantee Dominic Bracco made his way to Jessica Resnik’s sixth grade classroom for an interactive presentation about Latin American migration to the United States.
Over the course of the day, Bracco shared his thoughts on poverty, violence and the lack of education in Latin America with roughly 75 students from five classes. He emphasized a reporter’s role in educating the public about these ongoing issues and showed pictures from his projects, “Honduras: ‘Aqui Vivimos’” and “Los Ninis: Mexico's Lost Generation,” as prime examples for the lesson.
“We let people know why things happen,” Bracco said, explaining the importance of journalism. “Compassion hopefully comes from being educated about these topics. It’s my job as a journalist to find stories that will help us care.”
As a Mexico City-based photographer, Bracco spent the last six years documenting the Latin American migration crisis. Instead of solely focusing on the Mexico-U.S. border, however, he also explored the reasons why immigrants chose to leave their homelands in the first place.
“Conflict is a major issue for migration,” he said. “If there is conflict in your own home country, you may want to flee and go somewhere safer.”
As a child growing up in South Texas, Bracco saw the desperation immigrants faced as they tried to escape from border patrol officers in hopes of reaching a brighter future. The memory of risk and flight inspired him to delve deeper into the issue as a professional journalist.
“My first sort of mission was to show what happens to innocent people,” he said. “I wanted to show what it’s like to live there [in Latin America]. Daily life goes on, but it’s punctuated by violent events.”
In addition to showing students images about a range of occurrences including protests, shoot-outs and football games, Bracco also invited students to read snippets of a play he has written about life in a Mexican border town. The story focuses on one family and the threats they faced from the local drug cartel. Students acted out the two scenes and learned about impunity, extortion and gangs—themes all too common for many civilians in Latin America.
“It’s important to remember that people want to go on with their lives, but they’re punctuated by the horrific things that go on around them,” Bracco told the sixth graders. “I needed to bring these types of stories to you guys so you can understand why people leave.”