Friday, March 19, 2010

Immigration from Mexico to USA

By Lindsay Hale

Bemidji State University

This week here in Cuernavaca, we had the great opportunity to listen to a variety of speakers, one of them including Giselle Stern-Hernandez [1] who spoke of her struggle as a deportee’s wife. Her father is an Eastern European descendant living in New York and her Mother is a middle-class Mexican woman. Both parents had an income which left them cozy but not wealthy.In 1966 it was a snap to renew her mother’s visa and in 1990, she applied for U.S citizenship.Giselle had always considered herself an American but that image would slightly change when she met Roberto, an undocumented worker from Mexico.

As the relationship progressed and eventually resulted in marriage, Roberto and Giselle would face numerous struggles with immigration, deportation, and acceptance. Roberto and Giselle were married right before the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) 245 deadline was placed. Filing these papers did not come at an easy task.

United States Embassy in Mexico

In our visit to the United States Embassy in Mexico City, prices of visas and the time and effort that it takes never came up in any of the conversations we had with the representatives. To me it was perceived as an unanswerable question and was avoided.

Finally after struggle to get through all this they see an INS officer. Giselle handed him every piece of information she had: a marriage certificate, her passport, etc. and they were told that Roberto would not be able to enter the United States for 20 years. “Don’t these documents mean anything?” Giselle watched as her husband was led away in hand cuffs. She was sent home to pack a bag for Roberto, “what do you pack for your husband who is going to be deported, something funny that will make them laugh, or something serious to tell him that you love him?”

“The United States immigration does not work in the complicated areas.” What I took away from our visit to the U.S Embassy regarding immigration was that obtaining a visa was easy and anyone who applies and has the correct paperwork is able to receive a visa. However Giselle and Roberto (like many others) did not experience that in motion. So in reality, much of the information obtained in our visit to Mexico City is not reiterated from life experiences here.

Giselle with CGE-Mexico Director Anita right after monologue

Throughout the monologue that Giselle shared with our group, she generously shared her passion, grief, and anger that have proved to be challenging to her marriage and to fellow Latinos. She revealed points of racism and classism, power and positionality. It was shocking to be pulled in a story such as Giselle’s and be blindsided by reality. This does happen. Applying for a visa is very difficult and time consuming, unlike what the U.S Embassy described to us.

As an American, I feel guilty and angry for the way our government is handling their affairs. So I will leave with a final quote in the hopes that you will reflect on the reality of struggles that many immigrants face. “Who will be next; who in your life will be next; who in this room will be the next deportee’s wife?”

ALSO visit Giselle´s website and BLOG (find out MORE about her monologue!)

1] Giselle Stern-Hernandez, A Mexican-North American writer and performer of the monologue “The Deportee’s Wife;” Performance in Cuernavaca, Mexico on March 11, 2010.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rural Homestay Part 2

By Annie Ashby
St. Olaf College

Morelos is one of the only Mexican states that has preserved “heritage” corn – the same strands used by ancestors of 4,000 to 7,000 years ago. The government’s new agricultural programs and corporations like Monsanto try and try to get indigenous farmers to adopt their genetically modified corn seed so they can have a national monopoly. However, most farmers in Amatlán have shown a commendable resilience in holding onto their heritage crops.


A rare female farmer, with student Alex Peterson

Using their exquisite corn harvests, our rural home stay families filled us to the brim with home made tortillas, pozole, chilaquiles, tacos durados and much more. Personally, it was the freshest, most delicious food of my life. I appreciated each bite, thinking of all the land rights and food justice struggles Amatlán went through to provide us this food. It was also astonishing how sincerely loving and welcoming our families were amidst perhaps a monetary poverty.

Living simply in Amatlán was a nice change of pace and un gran descanso compared to the more rapid city life of Cuernavaca. From talking to my fellow students, this homestay has by far been one of our most meaningful experiences thus far in Mexico. The hospitality that Amatlán families showed us was fantastic, and the indigenous rights issues and cosmovision we were infused with were equally as mesmerizing.

Our trip has left me wrestling with many questions. Will Amatlán be able to preserve its indigenous cosmovision and beautiful way of life into the future? Will globalization ruin the preservation of indigenous culture? Why doesn’t the Mexican government care about indigenous poverty and lack of voice in politics and society?

Rural Homestay with Indigenous Families

By Annie Ashby

St. Olaf College

Upon arrival to Amatlán, a small indigenous pueblo in our state of Morelos, none of us knew what life-changing experiences were ahead. In fact, we were all a little nervous to meet our first home-stay families. Even though we would only be visiting for four days, our Spanish language skills and lessons on cultural sensitivity had never been as essential as they were with these indigenous families.

The surrounding mountains of Amatlán

The trip began with an immigration panel where three local men shared their heart-wrenching stories of migration to the United States. One man worked in the U.S. on a seasonal worker’s visa, but the other two traveled without documentation. These two men would have to leave their families for years on end in order to send back enough money to construct a small adobe house or support their children. This is the irony of being a migrant worker – one must leave what they love the most behind in order to sustain it.

We soon found out that essentially anyone who lived in an adobe or concrete-block home, rather than a lamina shack, had paid for their home with remittances from the U.S. Every family in Amatlán had been touched by migration, which more often than not meant they had also been touched by tragedy. So many children had grown up without fathers, and so many mothers had lost adolescents to the pull of U.S. opportunity.

In Amatlán, we also became more informed on land rights and agricultural issues. Most people who remained in the community lived off of a campo for their corn supply and perhaps a little money on the side. However, ever since NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), the corn markets of Mexico have been skewed in such a way that it is often more profitable for consumers to buy U.S. corn than local, indigenous products. Thus, the people of Amatlán have evolved to just producing corn for their families. And, this corn was amazing!

Our trip has left me wrestling with many questions. Will Amatlán be able to preserve its indigenous cosmovision and beautiful way of life into the future? Will globalization ruin the preservation of indigenous culture? Why doesn’t the Mexican government care about indigenous poverty and lack of voice in politics and society?