THE TRENTON-SALCAJÁ PROJECT
a series of short documentaries about (hopefully) soon-to-be sister cities
Purcell Carson, director
Trenton, New Jersey, like hundreds of cities in U.S., is every year becoming more closely tied to the rest of the Americas. While this troubled city has been losing residents for decades, its Latino population is booming, poised to become a majority in the next few years. The repercussions of that boom are felt not only in New Jersey, but in urban areas throughout Central and South America. In Guatemala, for example, the town of Salcajá alone has sent thousands of residents to Trenton. The fabric of both cities today is being rewoven to include a web of connections across our hemisphere.
This series of short films will document how migration is reshaping two soon-to-be sister cities in our globalized world. By focusing on Trenton and Salcajá and their intertwined populations, we see how two relatively small urban centers are rocked by huge demographic shifts, and how they influence and imagine each other. Shot in intimate and irreducible detail, the documentaries avoids the clichés and reductionism so common to representation of “Latinos” and “immigration” in the popular press. And as we follow characters between their homes in Trenton and those of their families in Salcajá, we will compare experiences, infrastructure, policy and culture across the Americas. These films will slip fluidly across boundaries in ways that, tragically, many immigrants cannot.
In Trenton, these visually rich, emotionally compelling documentaries will explore—from an intimate perspective—both the challenges the Guatemalan immigrant community faces and the potential it brings to a U.S. city struggling to survive in the 21st century. Guatemalans are already a dominant force in Trenton’s business community and economic life. They are working to become a political force as well, and to change the city they now call home. The series will analyze the strategies and hacks that new residents develop to adapt to, transform, and rejuvenate a damaged urban environment.