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Speaking Mam in America

Artist: Amy Gest


I choose to portray Guatemalan interpreters at the border of the US and Mexico to draw attention to the difficulties that Guatemalan immigrants face when they are detained at the border. A New Yorker article,"Language Barrier" (Feb 6), reported that in the past year, two hundred and fifty thousand Guatemalan migrants have been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border. At least half of them are Mayans, and many speak little or no Spanish. According to the Department of Justice, Mam was the ninth most common language used in immigration courts last year, which was more common than French. According to the ACLU, the indigenous population was likely the least able to understand their rights, and may therefore have been more susceptible to losing their children and waiving away their own asylum rights.

I choose to portray the Guatemalan interpreters and the Mexican and American people as simply as possible to allow the viewer to draw a picture of the situation in their own mind. I choose to use simple fabric silhouettes for the people and cord for the fence.

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