Category Archives: Mexican Immigration

Social Justice and Migrant Stories: I Have a Name

I Have a Name has a website.  Writer Robert Adler and photographer Tom Feher have embarked on a project to document and personalize the stories of people who seek a better life in the United States.

ed107cf648aa759d21b5d52c8b6240b1These are the invisible, the undocumented, the nameless, the ones who hide in the shadows, are fearful of discovery.  Some don’t make it across the border alive.  Others are brutalized and raped.  Most are afraid to tell their story.

They are statistics that distance us from their humanity and ours.  And hinder the United States from passing immigration reform legislation.

Robert and Tom’s project, with the help of  COMI, El Centro de Orientación de Migrantes de Oaxaca, connects us visually through the power of photography and personal narrative to come face-to-face with those who have made or attempted the journey.

More funding is needed to complete the project.  If you are part of or know about an organization that can help, or would like to host or help arrange an exhibition in your city, please contact Tom Feher. Gracias.

About Immigration, “The Girl” Movie Opens This Weekend, Filmed in Oaxaca

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez from Democracy Now interview independent film maker David Riker and award-winning Australian actress Abbie Cornish who made a movie about what it means to be involved in the human trafficking of undocumented immigrants who do America’s work.

The Girl is an intimate story that reminds us that Mexicans and Central Americans are the people who care for our children, tend our gardens, and  work in our fields to provide us with food.  The story is told from the point-of-view of a young Texas woman who unwittingly becomes involved with The Girl, portrayed by Maritza Santiago from Oaxaca.  Maritza was selected from 3,000 girls who tried out for the part when she was nine years old.

If you don’t do anything else today, please watch this video clip interview below and when the full-length feature film comes your way, please see it. Thank you!  Opens March 8 in New York and March 16 in Los Angeles.

The Girl is a microcosm. Here in Oaxaca and in our village — in fact in most villages throughout the state, men and women leave their families behind to find work, send money home to support their families, and suffer incredible hardship. I know people who have been left behind and many who have gone to the U.S. and returned. They are honorable, decent and hardworking people who are family centric. It is a tragedy that the United States does not have a more human immigration policy.

Cinco de Mayo and the Battle of Puebla

First of all, it’s important to know that today, Cinco de Mayo, is NOT Mexican Independence Day, which is September 16, 1810.

Nevertheless, it marks a significant date in history when the French army was defeated in Puebla on May 5, 1862, marking an important symbolic moment to curtail Napoleon Bonaparte’s designs on establishing a monarchy in North America.  When you visit Puebla you can still see the bullet holes in front of the house occupied by General Ignacio Zaragoza.

 

Most of us know Cinco de Mayo as a U.S. celebration of Latino culture.  There are 44.3 million Latinos living in the U.S. according to the 2008 census representing 15 percent of the population.

Perhaps we know Cinco de Mayo as the name of a favorite local Tex-Mex restaurant.  Isn’t there a Cinco de Mayo Mexican restaurant in your town?  There is in mine!  And today, many will of us will welcome the occasion to have a party and raise a toast to our southern neighbor with a beer or Margarita.  What are you doing tonight?

But there’s much more to it than that, according to historian David Hayes-Bautista, as reported today by CNN and Reza Gostar in GlendoraPatch.  It seems that Cinco de Mayo was a rallying cry in the U.S. by Latinos against the elitist French monarchy, which was sympathetic to the Confederacy during the Civil War.   At that time, Latinos sided with the Union, fearing that a Confederacy win would expand slavery to include them.

Puebla is Angelopolis, City of Angels

Dr. Hayes-Bautista, who is director of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, has uncovered the first groundbreaking research that links the celebration of liberation for Mexicans with the U.S. Civil War and the hope that the Union would prevail.  The win at the Battle of Puebla by the Mexican freedom fighters against the elitists energized many Americans early in the war when the Confederacy was powerful, especially Latinos.

So, as you raise your glass with a hearty Salud, recall that Latinos volunteered to serve in the Union Army in order to preserve freedom, independence, and fight for racial justice.

 

 

http://glendora.patch.com/articles/history-of-cinco-de-mayo-a-mexican-or-american-holiday

Oaxaca Center Shelters Migrants

The migratory route for people from southern Mexico and Central America comes through Oaxaca, explains Melissa Harrison who is doing a year of volunteer work here at COMI El Centro de Orientacion del Migrante de Oaxaca.

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Melissa, pictured on the right along with Xindy Li and Lair Martinez, finished her degree from The New School in New York and is in Oaxaca to hone her Spanish before going on to graduate school in the U.S. Her goal is to work in immigrant services and social advocacy in the U.S. southwest.

“My life is the way it is because there are people who are willing to do the jobs I don’t want to do. This is my way of giving back,” says Melissa.

We are at Nuevo Mundo, a cafe that roasts and brews their own organic coffee, located on Calle M. Bravo between Garcia Virgil and Porfirio Diaz. We meet just by the chatter that happens through enjoying good food and service. Melissa and her friend, artist Xindy Li, from Philadelphia, met here. Xindy is volunteering at the Espacio Zapata, where popular artists create murals, paintings, lithographs, street art and tee shirts.

There are two ways to go north from Southern Mexico and Central America — via free train (very dangerous) and by bus. People who can afford it take the bus because it is safer, more secure. Those who don’t risk kidnapping, rape, and worse. They go in search of work and a better life, the motivation for immigrants throughout the ages. To support themselves, they may stop and find jobs along the way. They may have been deported from the U.S. and are making their way south to go home. The migration stream goes both directions.

Melissa tells me that the people who stay at the shelter come for no more than a few days as they transit through Oaxaca. Many now are from Honduras and El Salvador. She notes that El Salvador is one of the most dangerous states in Latin America where civil war rages.

Her particular volunteer work is about locating missing people using a database for unidentified bodies.

COMI is operated by the Archdiocese of Antequera-Oaxaca in response to the U.S. and Mexican Bishops to help people caught in the migratory urgencies to seek a better life.

Why Learning Spanish Makes You Smarter

Learning a second language like Spanish or any other language for that matter, makes the brain nimble! according to psychologists and language researchers. I liked this article published in The New York Times, March 18, 2012 Studies show that learning a foreign language as an adult will stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s.  It’s like exercise for the mind.

My stretch this month is to continue to use past tenses as I expand my Spanish vocabulary. It’s very helpful to step outside the English-speaking expat community  comfort zone and our recent trip to the Sierra Norte offered Just that.

The challenge for any immigrant — like me living in Mexico or Mexicans living in the U.S. — is to learn a new language without giving up the mother tongue and cultural identity.  This is especially true for second generation immigrants who want to assimilate  I think about the U.S. school system and the anti-immigrant voices saying “learn English or go back where you came from.”

Hopefully, articles like these will increase our understanding of and appreciation for the richness that being bilingual offers for the individual and for society.  I would think we want to promote smarter and healthier people.