Editorial and Portrait Photographer Eric Kayne is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography. From his project ‘Orphaned at the Border‘. To see Eric’s body of work click on any image.
What happens to the children caught between the demands of the American labor market and a struggling Mexican economy? Many arrive at orphanages clustered along the cities by the U.S./Mexico border. When their parents have died of thirst making the journey across the border, or have succumbed to drug abuse in a major drug traffic zone, children arrive in the care of the Mexican municipal government system.
A Typical Day
Most days are like any other at the orphanage. With a total of 14 children in late January of 2007 (32 children at once is the current record), they spend their time going to school, playing and watching television.
The children awake at 6 am in rooms with multiple bunk beds – girls in one, boys in the other. The children get dressed and ready for school. The tías, or aunts, who take care of the children’s basic needs, serve breakfast.
Children who have birth certificates go to local public schools. Those who do not, like Jose, 9, his sister Jenny, 6, and brother J. J., 18 months, stay at Casa Pepito. Jose and Jenny spend their weekdays quietly during the afternoon. Later that afternoon, they leave for a school that will allow them to attend. J. J. stays with the other toddlers at the orphanage.
During visiting days, the parents of the three kids come over to visit. They come during the time Jose and Jenny are in school. In this way, the children’s father, Ron Rye, is only able to visit with J. J. By visiting during a time when Jenny and Jose are at school, the parents by default avoid questions by their older children. When will J. J. get to go home? Rye mumbled when “she gets a job,” referring to his girlfriend and mother of J. J.
The tías are not fond of J. J.’s parents. Tía Ana Rosales said they have to keep an eye on them during their visits because they are “rude” in the way they treat their kids. J. J., a gentle toddler with large black eyes and impossibly long eyelashes, becomes aggressive during his parents’ short visit. Both Rye and his girlfriend reach and grab for his shirt when they want him to come closer. They hold him carelessly upside-down, and are generally gruff in their interactions.
When the children return from school after lunchtime they attend classes at the orphanage for another four hours. Class is generally low-key, with the teacher giving one-on-one instruction with each student, checking their progress frequently. Often, the students get distracted. One student practices writing his signature in loops and curls. He has filled other pages with drawings of popular cartoon characters.
When school is out, the kids usually watch Spanish-dubbed cartoons. Other times they skip rope outside. Dinner is served around 6 pm. After, the kids watch more television as well as fight over toys. According to one of the child care workers, many of the children behave aggressively, fight and hoard toys.
Before the kids are sent to bed, they shower. Dirty clothes are piled in a mix on the floor except for underwear, which is worn in the shower out of modesty. The boys shower en masse. Everyone is in bed before nine o’clock. When the day starts again, these children wake up in beds that aren’t theirs, in a room surrounded by children who aren’t their family, and are taken care of by people who aren’t their parents.
By Eric Kayne