The Pan-American highway lies like a spinal column down the Americas. It stretches 19,000 miles from Alaska to Ushuaia, broken only by a stretch of treacherous jungle on the Colombia-Panama border — The Darien Gap.
The lush but often lethal rainforest is a siren to migrants from all over the world. Not for its stunning natural beauty, but because it is a gateway that, for some, opens onto the path to America. For others, it becomes their final resting place.
In a new documentary, the CBSN Originals team trekked the Darien Gap with a group of migrants and coyotes — paid people-smugglers who help those that can afford it to navigate the path. The risks are many, and often those who attempt the journey are ill-prepared. Along the way, our producers meet some men — and it is mostly young men who make this trip — who seem unlikely to survive the journey, lacking food, water, equipment or even a basic understanding of just how taxing a passage they face. A combination of intense heat, tropical humidity, torrential rain, thick clouds of insects, the risk of crossing ruthless drug smugglers and the sheer ardour of the terrain all conspire against the desperate droves who risk the muddy, mountainous jungle route.
At the end of the path, those who make it face uncertainty. A new treaty among Latin American states means those from the region who reach the border can expect to be repatriated. Others from further afield throw themselves at the mercy of the authorities, hoping to be granted passage. From southern Panama, more than 2,000 miles and six other borders separate them from a new life in the United States. They come from Africa, from Asia, and even the Middle East to Colombia, willing to risk it all for a chance that they can remake themselves in America.