The Darker Side of The American Dream [DISTURBING PHOTOS]


Photographer Nicola Okin Frioli in his photo series The Other Side of The American Dream catalogs the dark side of immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua who come to the United States to seek seeking security and stability, equality and freedom but as they pass Mexico they are subjected to violent beatings, sexual abuse, kidnappings, and murder at the hands of the country’s gangs, including the Maras Salvatruchas, and corrupt officials operating within the system.

Their plan to migrate to the US, to work and provide their families, is failed. They face mutilations and injuries but most of the humiliation is because their dream never comes true… being on “The Other Side”.

“It’s an effort to document the most dramatic side of Central American migration, all the accidents and mutilations. The broken dream of those who cross Mexico with the responsibility of their families and their livelihood, and when not accomplished [face] physical mutilations that could disable them from working the rest of their lives ‘The other side of the dream’ does not only refer to the search for the American dream. But also the failure of an intent to have a better life, the unfulfilled dream and a future that will never come,” Frioli said.

These photos shed light on an issue that has largely remained out of the public eye. It reveals evidence of the vast and painful insensitivity of the Mexican border. It offers a glimpse into the human failure that more and more individuals endure in their attempts to reach North America.


Teofilo Santos Rivera, 42, Panamá. He was the victim of an attempted mass assault by gang members during the crossing through Mexico. He jumped off the roof of the train, hurting his feet. Also suffers from liver cirrhosis and a cancerous sore on the back. – Tapachula, Chiapas, 2014.


Mariana, 29, Honduras. She was assaulted during her crossing as an undocumented person through Mexico, with the intent to arrive in the United States. She was pushed by the assailants into a ravine, and was able to avoid an attempted rape. Mariana’s travel companion was beaten when she attempted to defend her. – Tapachula, Chiapas, 2010.


Armando, El Salvador. His destination was the United States, but he was deported in Baja California while riding in the cargo train crossing Mexico. He wanted to retry the trip as undocumented via Tenosique, Tabasco. This time, while trying to get on the train, he fell and the very train amputated his arm. He awaits the document certifying him as a refugee. – Tapachula, Chiapas, 2014.


Yenifer, 8, Guatemala. She suffered, along with her 12-year-old sister and 11 other migrants, an automobile accident in Chiapas. The accident was caused by a flat front tire of the truck they boarded. The only person who died was the driver. They wanted to reach the US. – Tapachula, Chiapas, 2014.


“I’m 21, from Guatemala; while in the U.S. my brother, Danilo, and I were deported, and my brother Medardo was killed. In the end, I lost everything and I keep trying”. – Ixtepec, Oaxaca, 2011.


Anonymous with daughters hidden behind the cardboard to protect their identity. The message says ‘I have worked with drug traffickers (in Honduras) to support my family, until I fled for the safety of my children.’ In Central America, one of the few jobs available is drug trafficking. – Tapachula, Mexico, 2014.


Brian Francisco of Honduran origin, born in Canada. Although he and his sister have a Canadian passport, they travel with their undocumented mother in the same conditions. While in Honduras he was assaulted with a gun to his head by a friend’s trafficker father. On his board he wrote, “My mother was deported and they returned us to Honduras. I am 15 and do not want to suffer anymore”. – Tapachula, Chiapas, 2014.

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  1. Sad part is they keep trying. Maybe someone in Mexico should better their own country rather than continue to be the fly buzzing against America’s windshield. I dont agree with the treatment of the immigrants but I also dont agree with illegals. Im not racist in the least I jus believe that even when immigrants get here they get treated like crap. Except indians. They get years an years of tax free living while native laborers have to spend a greater portion of their check on taxes and go hungry at times. And for the critical people of the world who will look at this an have some rebuttal, I say this… a native person can have a college degree in business management/marketing/ whatever and still not own a store yet they are handed tax free land for theirs. I disagree that americans should be treated as lessers than our immigrants. I wouldnt mind if equality was an actual thing rather than the idea ignorants hold.

    • I love how racist statements are usually prefaced by “I’m not racist but…”

      Mexico (and most of the Caribbean, Central and South America, for that matter) is poor mainly because of US policies. The US depends on foreign workers for many of its industries, yet won’t provide safe, legal ways for those workers to immigrate or migrate to fill those positions. They import drugs from these countries, yet refuse to make them legal, forcing the creation of underground and criminal controlled smuggling with poor civilians forced into the crossfire. They back dictatorial governments that give special treatment to US corporations at the expense of their own peoples’ health and well being. So the naive statement that “someone down there should fix things” shows a laughable lack of understanding about the reality “down there”.

      Indians. The very name you choose to use proves your racism. You speak about “native” entrepreneurs having disadvantages, while speaking about how easy the Indians have it by having tax-free land “handed” to them. This is land that is theirs by law. It was theirs long before it was your forefathers. It was ceded to them in treaty, which are legally binding agreements, but was promptly stolen as soon as an immigrant (AKA your forefather) wanted the land for their own use. Now the true Natives, not the white settler descendants you speak of, are forced to live on often small, desolate parcels of land that no one wants, forced to live according to laws they have no say in and given tiny amounts of money and no means of creating more wealth legally, provided they stay in these crime-ridden, drug-riddled and hopeless communities (that’s the one part of the treaties that are actually enforced, no money unless you stay put). So people that have had generations of abuse, neglect, scorn and ridicule heaped on them, that have had their way of life so totally destroyed that they have forgotten how to even have pride in existing as a people, these people somehow “have it easy”.

      I as well would like it if equality were a thing for all people instead of those lucky few descendants of the people that came over on the boats from Europe…

    • well you cannot say anything against indians, as you wiped em out of their own habitat, that genocide is just too sad. Tax free is least..well no it’s nothing to what USA ppl owe them. Just putyoursefl in their position. Degrading.

      • That’s American Indians your talking about or aka Native Americans. Not Indians the Indians that get tax free everything and businesses are Indians from India…..

  2. Indians as in from India not Native Americans or American Indians is what was said have you seen tax breaks for Native Americans or aka American Indians or them run businesses with no taxes??? So no that person said Indian as in from INDIA go learn some history on cultures and their titles…..and yes it’s true they are givin a big break but hey that’s America for you all about helping our neighbors before plucking our own plank in our eyes….

  3. I agree that the native americans are the true americans and that others need to learn the difference when they say Indian. BUT have people not stopped talking about the main issue? Those people in South America suffer very much to come all the way to the US. They come here and there are those who pay taxes as well but will they ever see any benefits? They will never retire. Then what john said? That americans are treated less than immigrants? Stop being so ignorant. He wouldn’t last a year if he changed places doing all the hard work. Stop being lazy and actually work to get results. So many that try to come to the US that suffer being raped, beaten, killed, and thee few that make never see their family again. If their precious family, parents, grandparents, siblings, if any of them are sick or die-they will live on with the heartbreak that they never see their loved ones again.

  4. Really don’t like it when you people take about us, we as a people wish everything that was said in the past was upheld. But no, that’s how you people are say something, do something else. Like most of your politicians, never a straight answer and you all act like your telling the truth.!!


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