Contemporary Latin American Fiction

Cerezas por papeles/Cherries for Documents- Helen Ceballos

Entry Question

Helen Ceballos describes a harrowing experience of attempting to cross the water from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico. What does this story reveal about the risks and dangers of migration, and how might it shape our understanding of the factors that drive people to undertake such journeys?

Thinking of these questions, describe how the photographs expand on the topics of migration present in Ceballos’s text.

What emotions does this (textual/visual) retelling of the experience of crossing waters arise in you?


Helen Ceballos is a Dominican performer, visual artist, writer, and cultural promoter that addresses issues of migration to Puerto Rico and the US; Black Atlantic, and Queer Afro-Latinidad.

Cerezas por papeles/ Cherries for documents, a photo-text, forms a part of a broader composition that Ceballos conceived and executed at a gallery in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The piece is an assemblage of fragments that draws from Ceballos’ personal experiences of relocating to Puerto Rico and traveling to various other countries, such as Brazil, Argentina, and the US. Ceballos contends that comprehending the theme of migration requires us to engage with diverse modes of expression, accounts, and viewpoints. Specifically, she has a vested interest in how Dominican and Caribbean women are affected by migration. Furthermore, she seeks to explore the ways in which the vulnerability of migrants is compounded by gender-based oppression, anti-blackness, and perpetual misinterpretation.



Del Rosario De Regino,Ethan Valentino


Group Work

What does Ceballos mean when she says, “empathy appears when we glimpse kindness among those of us who migrate clandestinely, and we become siblings”? How does this relate to the experiences shared in the reading?

What is the significance of the phrase “out of sight, out of mind, out of the heart” in the context of the reading?

In the story about the woman who fell into the sea and the man who said, “It was her or us,” what does this reveal about the attitudes towards survival and self-preservation during the journey of clandestine migration?

The excerpt includes several accounts of people engaging in illegal or exploitative activities related to migration, such as renting out a birth certificate for a fee or offering a fraudulent marriage to facilitate the legalization process. What do these stories reveal about the social and economic dynamics of migration, and how might they contribute to cycles of vulnerability and exploitation?