Tag Archives: 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.

Working From Home Has New Meaning: From Oaxaca to North Carolina and Back Again

This blog post is about work, working from home, retirement, immigration reform, and travel on the secluded Oaxaca coast.  A hodgepodge.

You haven’t heard from me much in the past few weeks and I admit I have been remiss in writing and blog posting.  I left Oaxaca at the end of April for the luxury of a 10-day sojourn with my family (son and family, brother and family, sister) in California, then continued on to North Carolina for a long-overdue reunion with my husband Stephen.  I have settled into working from home in NC until I return to Oaxaca on June 21 for our summer Market Towns and Artisan Villages photography workshop that starts June 28.  Working from home has taken on new meaning for me.  Some days I even take this to a higher level: “working from bed.”

 

At this moment, I am looking out at a lush green perennial garden filled with hot pink echinacea, equally hot phlox, silvery coriander with yellow flowers, yucca stalks sprinkled with white blooms, and hydrangea blossoms bigger than my fist.  The pollen is about killing me!  But, I delight in the contrast between this landscape and my beloved Oaxaca where magnificent mountain ranges ring the expansive high desert plateau punctuated with herds of grazing sheep, maize and agave fields.  Oaxaca is always on my mind and in my heart.  I feel fortunate to be able to go back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico and love living in both places.  My round-trip plane tickets originate and end in Mexico!

Now, for the serious stuff!

Thank you, Damien Cave, The New York Times Mexico City foreign correspondent, for writing about another Mexico — Mexico: Without the Crowds, or Attitude (June 2, 2012) and the tranquil fishing villages of Oaxaca’s Costa Chica — Mazunte, Zipolite and San Agustinillo.  This is where you can still sleep in a hammock or a 3-star hotel and hear the ocean roar, dip your toes into rock protected coves, and visit the sea turtle preservation sanctuary.  This is the real part of Oaxaca, far from the over-developed Huatulco (in the style of Cancun), where you can be lazy, eat and sleep well.

   

Also, in The New York Times on June 1, 2012, Jorge Casteñeda and Douglas Massey published Do-It-Yourself Immigration.  They discuss immigration reform, the controversy around undocumented immigrants in the U.S., and the natural decline in migration from Mexico to the United States. Jorge G. Castañeda, the foreign minister of Mexico from 2000 to 2003, is a professor of politics and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University. Douglas S. Massey is a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton.

Working from home now constitutes organizing workshops for the coming year, confirming registrations, making lodging and restaurant reservations, and setting itinerary plans for moving participants from one location to another.  It also means having the time to do market research and planning. So, while you haven’t heard from me, please know that I’ve been busy working!

And, as always, I’d love to hear from you.  Let me know if you have any questions.  I haven’t talked much about what it’s been like after taking retirement from UNC Chapel Hill last December.  I don’t know if that would be interesting to you.  I did worry about whether I would be able to continue to be creative without the structure of a traditional work day and if I could sustain myself financially–all those things that we worry about when making life transitions.  But, it’s working out. For anyone out there who is afraid of taking the plunge, I will give you encouragement.

Sending all my best,  Norma

 

Witness for Peace in Oaxaca, Mexico: Advocates for Sustainable Agriculture and Immigration Reform

Wood-yoked oxen with traditional plow

Several days ago, I wrote that Stephen and I were planning to attend a Witness for Peace (WFP) presentation by a U.S. delegation that had just returned from Oaxaca.  Nineteen people from across the U.S. ranging in age from 18 to 73 years old, teachers, artists, and advocates participated in this delegation.

We did attend and heard from Sharon Mujica, Jane Stein, David Young and Eduardo Lapetina who had spent a week in Oaxaca in June 2011 meeting with local community-based leaders, living in villages, and hearing about immigration, sustainable agriculture, economic development, and the impact of the drug wars. Their mission, as volunteers, was to learn as much as they could, immerse themselves in the culture, return to the U.S. and help raise awareness about issues facing Oaxacaquenos.  The NC chapter of WFP started many years ago as the Carolina Interfaith Task Force on Central America when NAFTA was under consideration in the U.S. Congress.

Sharon Mujica has been part of the Latin American studies program at UNC Chapel Hill since the early 1990′s and lived in Mexico for 20 years.  Jane Stein is one of the founding directors of CHICLE, an intensive language school in Carrboro, NC.  David Young was a founding director of Visiting International Faculty (VIF) program that hires international teachers of English and places them in rural NC public schools.  Eduardo Lapetina is an artist originally from Argentina.

Taking alfalfa to market

Here is a brief summary of what they discussed:

  • Oaxaca is a microcosm of what goes on in Mexico
  • It is complex, rural and isolated
  • There is tremendous out-migration; people in search of jobs
  • 76% of Oaxacaquenos live in extreme poverty
  • The state is rich in natural resources
  • It is very much affected by NAFTA
  • 57% of the population is indigenous
  • 14% don’t speak Spanish (they speak an indigenous language)
  • In Mexico, 17% attend University but only 5% graduate
  • Saw no impact of drug war in Oaxaca; localized to border states
  • 90% of guns used in drug war come from the U.S.
  • Globalization and industrial farming result in chemically treated, genetically modified corn and beans
  • Small family farms are at risk; cross hybridization results in contamination of indigenous seeds
  • NAFTA floods Mexico with below market corn, small farmers can’t compete, drives them out of business
  • Multinational corporations are present to extract minerals and other natural resources
  • There is a strong desire for economic parity to keep young people from migrating; out-migration is a necessity not a wish
  • NAFTA was supposed to “float the boat”

Plowing the milpas to plant corn, squash, beans

These are some of the local organizations the delegation visited to learn more about sustainable agriculture and indigenous human rights:

  • Centro de Derechos Indigenas Flor y Canto
  • Universidad de la Tierra, post-secondary alternative education
  • La Vida Nueva women’s cooperative in Teotitlan del Valle
  • CEDI CAM reforestation/water catchment project in the Mixteca

Delegation members stayed with families in homes and took their meals with them.

Shucking dried corn kernels for planting in the milpas

Witness for Peace (WFP) is a politically independent, nationwide grassroots organization of people committed to nonviolence and led by faith and conscience. WFP’s mission is to support peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas by changing U.S. policies and corporate practices which contribute to poverty and oppression in Latin America and the Caribbean.

WFP has a field office in Oaxaca, Mexico, currently staffed by four team leaders.  Oaxaca is a state in southern Mexico with one of the largest indigenous populations in the country. Its rural population has been devastated by corn imported from the United States as a result of NAFTA. Many small farmers from Oaxaca have few options but migration. Learn about the complexities of this state and the movements being formed to make a better world possible!

Witness for Peace, 3628 12th Street NE. 1st Fl., Washington, DC 20017 – 202.547-6112 – 202.536.4708

Dried corn husks will wrap tamales

Chipil Grows Wild in North Carolina

Jose is with us today helping Stephen in the yard, clearing out the woodshed in preparation for winter, sorting through the detritis of a cluttered garden shed, and making a haul or two or three to the dump.  He and his wife just had a new baby boy, his third, three weeks old.  They named him for the king of birds.  “It’s a Native American name,” he tells me. “Those are my roots.  I am indigenous.”  His high cheekbones and sculpted Mayan-like profile speak to that.  Jose is from Veracruz, Mexico.  It is a place I’ve never been, but he speaks of it fondly.  His parents and some siblings are still there.  He hasn’t seen them since he came to the U.S. some years ago.  I suspect he is not documented, but it’s another version of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  This is his third boy, age three weeks.  All the children were born here in North Carolina and that makes them citizens.  When we talk about this, I can see Jose is proud.  The two older ones, age seven and eight are getting an education and there is hope that there will be work for them that pays a good wage when they come of age.  Not like home.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bd/Tamal_chipil%C3%ADn.jpg

Image by www.nicksaumphotography.com

We are talking about food.  “Did you know chipil is growing in my garden,” he says to me, more of a statement than a question.  Chipil is a green leafy herb that grows wild in the Oaxaca countryside.  It is plentiful in our village of Teotitlan del Valle, is gathered and sold in the daily market, and used for flavoring much like cilantro.  “I don’t know how it got there” Jose says.  “Maybe a bird brought it in.”    I think, perhaps, or another immigrant in his neighborhood missed this herb so much that he brought it back with him when he returned and the seeds scattered.  I think of how indigenous people use what is given to them from the land — a centuries, millenia old practice.

Ah, chipil, I say.  The aroma of a mint-like parsley comes to mind.  That’s what is used to flavor tamales and squash blossom corn soup, yes?  “Yes,” says Jose, and I see the faraway look in his eyes.  Are you homesick, I ask.  “Sometimes,” he says.  “But, the work here is good and I am happy to be living here.”  We are grateful for his work, too, and for his company.  He is a bright, handsome young man who gives us a hand when we need it most.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/chipilin