Tag Archives: immigration

Photo Story: Confiscated From Immigrants at the U.S. Border

Feature Shoot highlights the things that the U.S. Border and Customs Patrol confiscates from immigrants crossing over between Mexico and the United States. Photographer Thomas Kiefer and former janitor collected soap, t-shirts, rosaries, and more and then captured them. The mundane tells a story.  Thanks to my friend Janet Fish for sharing. This had a powerful impact for me and I want to share it with you. We can’t figure out the purpose in confiscating bars of soap and t-shirts.


I’m in Mexico City on a hump day before I take a group of 10 wonderful women on a textile study tour to Tenancingo de Degollado to explore the Mexican jaspe or ikat rebozo. We are also going on to Taxco to visit the Spratling ranch and then to Metepec to meet master clay artisans. Stay tuned!

Sunrise From New Mexico and California Berries

On a pre-dawn Wednesday this week, I was on a plane from Albuquerque to Denver with a connection to San Francisco. It was dark at take-off. The lights of the city sparkled against the black desert that met obscure sky. On the vast horizon I could see shapes of mountains and the lights of Santa Fe.


Then, the eastern sky began to explode in color after the first sliver of orange cast a magic glow on the clouds. I realized I was grateful for the three-thirty morning wake-up so I could get to see this.

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Mexico is ever-present in New Mexico. The tales of conquest, weaving culture, adobe homesteads, Native American art and crafts, and blue corn are integrated into the physical and historical landscape. It is easy to transition from one place to the other. Both are conducive to a more relaxed lifestyle and many of my Santa Fe friends spent lots of time in Oaxaca, especially in winter.

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I’m here in Santa Cruz, California, now for one of my regular visits with my 98-year-old mother, sister and brother-in-law. California is another place where Spanish and then Mexican life prevailed before becoming a U.S. territory then state.

As Barbara and I approached and drove beyond San Juan Bautista and the historic mission yesterday, we passed fields of farm workers tending the fruit and vegetables we eat. Are they undocumented?  Likely. They harvest Driscoll strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and other brands we know from our supermarket shelves.

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Acres of red and green lettuces, and chard are laid out like a Mondrian painting. The workers kneel toward earth as if in prayer, just like in Mexico.  Their heads are covered, their bodies shielded from sun by long sleeve shirts. Some rise, stretch arms skyward, taking a break from back-breaking picking. Here the land is more fertile and the pay is better.  Eight thousand dollars a year is a lot in Mexico. Signs along the California 156 shout out Trabajo Disponible — work available. This is not a job for sissies.

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We were on our way to see Dr. Paul, an orthopedic surgeon, to examine my bad right knee, hurting since early July when I did too many dancing twists at a Best of the Beatles party in Teotitlan del Valle. Difficult for sustained walking. No broken bones, but after a cortisone injection and not much relief,  I’m considering a postponement of a year-in-the-planning trip to Barcelona with a September 16 departure.

Should I go it alone now or wait until spring and travel with my sister?  What do you think? And, why?

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