Maria Meza: Woman Identified as Mother in Iconic Tear Gas Photo

Maria Meza

Getty Maria Meza is the 39-year-old Honduran woman in this photograph that was taken as border patrol agents fired tear gas at migrants by the San Ysidro border crossing.

Maria Meza is a 39-year-old Honduran woman who has been identified as the mother wearing a Frozen t-shirt in a Reuters photograph that quickly went viral on Sunday. The photograph was taken by photographer Kim Kyung-Hoon, as Border Patrol agents fired tear gas at migrants by the San Ysidro border.

The photograph has since been featured on the front page of multiple newspapers, and has been shared widely across the internet.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Meza explained what the experience was like, and why she and her children are willing to continue to risk physical harm at the U.S.-Mexico border as they seek asylum.

Here’s what you need to know:

‘I Felt Sad, I Was Scared, I Wanted to Cry’: Meza Shares Her Story

To BuzzFeed News, Meza said that after the patrol agents fired tear gas at migrants by the San Ysidro border on Sunday, she felt “sad.” “I was scared,” she said, “I wanted to cry.”

She continued, “That’s when I grabbed my daughters and ran. I thought my kids were going to die with me because of the gas we inhaled.”

Meza further told BuzzFeed News that she and her five children (two of which are depicted in the photograph) weren’t trying to cross illegally, and that they were looking across the border along with other members of the caravan when Border Patrol agents launched the tear gas.

She and her children are now back at their encampment in Benito Juárez Stadium in Tijuana, where members of the caravan are being housed. She said to BuzzFeed News, “I hope God will help me enter [the US] with these kids because we’re suffering. I’m a single mother who wants to provide for my children.”

Photographer Kim Kyung-Hoon Followed Meza All the Way Back to Tijuana to Document Her Family’s Escape From the Tear Gas

Kim Kyung-Hoon, a photojournalist for Reuters, first spotted Meza and her two five-year-old twin daughters right as the tear gas was fired. He said that he noticed Meza because of her Frozen t-shirt. He has been following the migrant caravan of Central Americans for nearly two weeks now. To The Washington Post, he said, “I think my picture tells the story of what’s happening now.”

Though Kim cannot speak Spanish, his colleague was able to speak with Meza later, and ascertained that Meza is trying to reunite her family with her children’s father, who lives in the United States.

Kim said, “This is the first time for me to cover [the] migrant story in Mexico. I realized . . . we have to tell the truth and tell the story by sharing pictures. I just captured the moment of what is happening there, and then it went viral. It became a chance for more people to think about these migrant issues.”

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