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The Ballad of Esequiel Hernández

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Border Security and the Media

The Ballad of Esequiel Hernández turns its lens on the U.S.-Mexico Border. In 1997, U.S. Marines patrolling the border as part of the war on drugs shot and killed Esequiel Hernández Jr. Mistaken for a drug runner, the 18 year old was, in fact, a U.S. citizen tending his family's goats with a .22 rifle.

How can you discuss issues surrounding border security, U.S. immigration policy and the war on drugs in your community?

  • Write and share your own corrido about Esequiel Hernández or the death of a young person in your community.

  • Host a debate on current U.S. immigration policy and/or the war on drugs, especially focusing on militarization of the border. Publicize the positions taken by your elected representatives and let them know how you want them to vote.

  • Carefully review news reporting on local trials. Note the kinds of sound bites and footage that are used. How does the construction of the story influence the spin on the facts in question? What stereotypes are reinforced or challenged? How might news coverage influence the outcome of a trial? Are there trials that do not receive coverage that should? Share your findings with local news directors and work with them to ensure accurate and fair coverage for future trials.

  • Write a letter to your local or national representative letting them know your thoughts on border security policy.


Get informed about the issues in the film and lead a discussion in your community.

Discussion Guide

Discussion Guide

P.O.V. offers discussion guides for all of our films. Please download this guide and use it to gain tips on how to develop productive conversations using The Ballad of Esequiel Hernández.

Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan

This lesson plan is designed to be used with the film, The Ballad of Esequiel Hernández, the story of an American teenager who was shot and killed by U.S. Marines deployed to the U.S.-Mexican border to watch for drug smugglers. Classrooms can use this lesson to examine the pros and cons of using the military to support law enforcement activities at the U.S.-Mexican border.

Reading List

Delve Deeper

This multimedia resource list, compiled by Debby DeSoer of the Ellensburg Public Library, provides a range of perspectives on the issues raised by the P.O.V. documentary The Ballad of Esequiel Hernández and includes recommended books for both adults and young adults, films and documentaries, and music CDs.

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Nobody knew about his story, and I started wondering why it was that his story had vanished.”

— Kieran Fitzgerald, Filmmaker

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