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Finalist 2022

Federico Ríos

Migrants crossing the Darien Gap


This year, an unprecedented 200,000 people have crossed the rugged jungle between South and Central America known as the Darien Gap, almost twenty times the average of a few years ago. For decades, the Darien Gap was considered so dangerous that few dared to cross it. From 2010 to 2020, the annual average number of crossings was just under 11,000 according to Panamanian authorities.   

Thousands of migrants, mostly Venezuelans, attempt to cross the Darien, a jungle pass between South and Central America, to reach the United States. They have left everything behind to travel in search of the American dream. Venezuela has become a dysfunctional country that generates a massive exodus of people seeking to feed their families. Since 2015, more than 7 million Venezuelans have left the country, according to the United Nations, mostly bound for other South American countries. The Venezuelan exodus is one of the largest in the world, roughly equal to those caused by the wars in Ukraine and Syria.


A regular contributor to The New York Times, he has worked for publications around the world such as National Geographic, Stern, Geo, Paris Match, or Leica Magazine with documentary photography projects where social and environmental issues are the protagonists. His photographs have been recognized by prestigious international competitions such as the Hansel-Mieth Preiss Award in 2019; the First Prize POY Latam News Series, the Jury Prize at Days Japan, International Photojournalism Award, the Portfolio Review New York Times in 2017; and Eddie Adams Workshop XXVII in New York (2014). He has published two photography books: La ruta del cóndor in 2012 under the publishing imprints of Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano and Universidad de Cladas and Fiestas de San Pacho, Quibdó with the photography collective Mas UNO in 2013.