This morning I’m at the Albuquerque airport waiting to board my flight to Oaxaca. I arrive this evening, in advance of Day of the Dead and our concurrent three workshops and tours. It’s a busy and frenzied time in Oaxaca where I expect the city streets will be packed with revelers by October 28.
My sister has been visiting from Northern California. Yesterday we visited 516 Arts in downtown ABQ where they mounted an important two-part art installation MIGRATORY and When the Dogs Stop Barking.
You’ve heard these themes before, as have I. The focus is on the issues surrounding migration and immigration that affect so many people on both sides of the Mexico-US border. Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California, as well as Chihuahua on the Mexican side. So many recent and earlier immigrants came from Northern Mexico. Today, refugees from Venezuela, Central America, and Eastern Europe, especially now Ukraine, wait at the border for visas to enter legally. It is a log-jam.
The exhibit begins this way: Migration is a natural phenomenon. Birds migrate from north to south to seek warmer climates. There is a history of animals migrating throughout Africa, Asia, the North and South American continents in search of food and watering holes, especially in periods of drought. We are going to Michoacan in February to see the spectacular migration and nesting place for endangered Monarch butterflies. Are humans any exception? I don’t think so.
The North American continent was populated by migrants from northern Asia across Beringia. Most archeologists agree this occurred from 16,000 to 25,000 years ago, maybe more. I’m reading Jennifer Raff’s Origin: The Genetic History of the Americas, and this is my source. She is a genetic archeologist from University of Kansas.
The exhibit begins with the premise that species migrate as part of the natural evolution of life. it is easy to extrapolate that this extends to humans. If the Americas was a blank slate, migration was necessary to populate it. I am alive because of my immigrant grandparents escaped a Europe frought with war, economic instability and anti-Semitism that imperiled their lives. They got here in the early 1900’s, eager to become citizens and assimilate. It wasn’t long before immigration policies changed and those at risk where shut out. Rising isolationism dictated this policy.
Many Indigenous Nations along the border share traditions despite the fact that they span both Mexico and the USA. They have a unique perspective on migration since their people are part of geopolitical separation. The second part of the exhibition focuses on this issue
The exhibition pays attention to the solidarity networks, creativity, and mutual aid around the topic of migration. Migration is not a contemporary crisis but a historical departing point of all human societies. Migration is a natural process that is common to diverse species.