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Posts Tagged ‘mexico’

0712-border

Photo: Henry Gass/Christian Science Monitor
Volunteers like Luis Guerrero, pictured above, reach out to migrants — after they are released from federal custody and their cases are proceeding — and help them to reunite with families around the country and get legal assistance.

At the end of 7th grade, after we had had a half year each of Spanish and French to get a taste, the Spanish teacher took me aside and begged me to take Spanish in 8th grade and not French. I spouted what my parents told me about French having more great literature, and the teacher was shocked at my ignorance. Still, I wasn’t one to go against my mother.

Today I think if only I could speak Spanish, maybe I could actually be some help as a volunteer at the border — like the people in this story.

The Christian Science Monitor writes, “At the U.S.-Mexico border, our reporter found an army of everyday citizens compelled to offer help where officials cannot.”

Henry Gass, the reporter, writes, “Luis Guerrero has been going to the central bus station here for six years now. He still hasn’t bought himself a ticket.

“It started when he saw a nun trying to help newly arrived migrants passing through the station and offered to translate for her. The migrants have kept coming, so he has kept making the ride to the station.

“Of course, migrants are crossing into this part of Texas in numbers not seen in over a decade. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has already apprehended more migrants in the Rio Grande Valley sector this fiscal year than any other year this century besides 2014. Mr. Guerrero has responded to this latest surge with the calm enthusiasm of a retired firefighter who rescued children from a submerged school bus three decades ago. …

“The zero tolerance policy is no more, but the flow of migrants – primarily families from the Northern Triangle of Central America – has only increased. News and government reports of migrant deaths, as well as ‘dangerous’ and ‘squalid’ conditions in government holding centers, have thrust the issues back into the national spotlight in recent weeks. …

“Immigration lawyers, local officials, and volunteers across the border [have] been feeling the strain.

“Bus stations have been a consistent area of need, and that is where Juanita Salazar Lamb found herself this week after driving down to McAllen from Benton County in northwest Arkansas. She had been following the news coverage of the border crisis, unsure of whom to believe – people who say the migrants need asylum, or people who say they’re exploiting loopholes in immigration law; people who say they’re being treated horribly, or people who say they’re being treated well. …

“Thirteen months ago [Joyce Hamilton] and four friends formed a group, Angry Tias and Abuelas, focused on helping migrants on international bridges and reuniting separated families. The group expanded to a core of eight regular volunteers, and six months ago got a fiscal sponsorship from an Austin-based nonprofit (so it can attract donors even though it’s not yet recognized as a tax-exempt organization).

“ ‘By August [2018] I just really, I didn’t feel like I had a center. I was just shaky a lot,’ she says of the toll her work has taken over the past year.

“As government policies have changed, the group has had to shift where it devotes resources. … In January the administration began implementing Migrant Protection Protocols, a policy also being challenged in court in which migrants may be returned to Mexico while their immigration case is proceeding.

“International bridges are now mostly empty, while shelters in Mexican border cities are overwhelmed with migrants. Ms. Hamilton’s group is now focused on helping at the bus stations and sending money and supplies to shelters in Mexico. …

“Things have slowed down recently in her hometown of Harlingen, Texas. When she arrived at the local bus station on Monday morning – a station so busy on some days this summer she couldn’t hear herself talk – there was only one Guatemalan girl. It was her 18th birthday, so she had been released from the Norma Linda child detention center nearby and dropped off there.

“The girl’s bus ticket – to Georgia, where she says her uncle lives – was for the next day, so Ms. Hamilton arranged for her to spend the night at Loaves & Fishes, a homeless shelter in Harlingen. The 18-year-old says she hopes to work in the U.S. and send back money to support her parents still living in rural Guatemala. After she had crossed the border into Arizona, she spent eight months in Norma Linda, an experience she had only a few complaints about.

“ ‘There were lots of rules,’ she said in Spanish, fidgeting with a bracelet she had made at Norma Linda bearing the names of her grandparents.

“ ‘I made a couple of friends,’ she added. ‘I’m going to miss them.’ ”

As a colleague at my last job used to say about migrants who had made the trek, “People who go through all that sound like the kind of people I would like to know.”

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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Photo: Christian Chavez/AP
Children on the Mexican side play on a cross-border seesaw that two professors designed to highlight human connection.

The language of illegality has for many decades gotten in the way of our communal understanding that seeking asylum is a basic human right. Seeking asylum doesn’t necessarily mean being granted asylum — efficient processes have to be put in place to weigh individual circumstances — but it is not illegal to ask.

I get very discouraged about the way our country has long been treating human beings who have run for their lives. Then I see that not everyone is on board with the policies.

Lanre Bakare writes at the Guardian, “A set of fluorescent pink seesaws has been built across the US-Mexico border by a pair of professors seeking to bring a playful concept of unity to the two sides of the divide.

“Installed along the steel border fence on the outskirts of El Paso in Texas and Ciudad Juárez in Mexico, the seesaws are the invention of Ronald Rael, a professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and Virginia San Fratello, an associate professor of design at San José State University, who first came up with the concept 10 years ago.

“In an Instagram post that has received tens of thousands of likes [see @rrael ], children and adults can be seen playing and interacting on both sides of the fence using the seesaws, which provide ‘a literal fulcrum’ between the countries, according to Rael. He said the event was about bringing ‘joy, excitement and togetherness at the border wall.’

“He added that it was also about finding ‘meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side.’ …

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Photo: Carolina Miranda/ LA Times
Japanese art collective Chim↑Pom is one of many groups to build art projects along the U.S.-Mexico border. This one is a tree house called USA Visitor Center.

“Other art projects have been planned for the border. Estudio 3.14, an architectural practice in Mexico, designed a pink interpretation … inspired by the 20th-century Mexican architect Luis Barragán, employing the pink pastel colour he often used in his designs.

“Dozens of artists have used the wall as a setting for projects, including the Japanese art collective Chim Pom, which created a treehouse in Tijuana with ‘USA Visitor Center’ written on the side.” More at the Guardian, here. And for the Carolina A. Miranda Los Angeles Times report on the treehouse, click here.

 

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190402-erika-hernandez-micop-community-leader-radio-indigena-dj-se-206p_6f4e8705eeab07bbf03092d2680ed931.fit-1240w

Photo: Arcenio Lopez
Erika Hernandez, of the Mixteco Indígena Community Organizing Project in California, is a Radio Indigena DJ.

As languages spoken by small communities disappear, overwhelmed by other languages, it’s encouraging to read that the digital media that’s part of the problem is also part of the solution. As is radio.

Ludwig Hurtado has the story at NBC News. “Josefino Alvarado, a California farm worker, describes his typical morning picking blueberries at a Ventura County farm.

“As the sun beats down on him and his fellow workers, a crackle of static hums at their feet. ‘Hola mi gente,’ (Hello, my people) a voice calls out from the radio’s speakers in Spanish. Then, ‘tanìndíí,’ which means ‘good morning’ in Mixteco.

“On this farm and most of the farms nearby, workers have their radios tuned into the same station: 94.1, Radio Indígena. … The community-run station boasts 40 hours of original programming every week, broadcasting music and talk shows in a handful of indigenous languages, as well as Spanish programming too.

“The station is a welcome cultural lifeline for thousands of farm workers who speak Mixteco or other indigenous Central American languages.

“ ‘Listening to it is a point of pride,’ Alvarado, who is a frequent listener, said. While he only understands Spanish and Mixteco, he often will listen to some of Radio Indígena’s shows in Zapoteco, Triqui, and Nahuatl. Even if he doesn’t understand them, he said he’s proud to hear the languages being kept alive on the airwaves.

“Alvarado, who moved to the U.S. in 1997, was born and raised in the city of Oaxaca in central Mexico, where he and his family learned Mixteco as their first language. Although Mixteco has come into the national spotlight thanks to the Academy Award-winning film, Roma, the language is still virtually unknown to the general population. …

“Due to economic and cultural pressure in Mexico, many Mixtec communities are shifting to Spanish. UNESCO considers almost half of Mixteco’s 50 dialects to be either severely endangered or at risk of endangerment.

“According to the 2010 census, over 685,000 Latinos in the U.S. identified themselves as American Indian, up from around 400,000 in 2000. But experts agree that the actual number of indigenous Latinos in the U.S. is much higher than estimated because many don’t report to the census due to stigma and immigration status. …

“ ‘There’s a lot of radio stations in Oxnard, but they just play music,’ said Roberto Jesús, who listens to the show every morning as he drives to work, getting informed about the news and about his legal rights as an immigrant. … In the U.S., Mixtecs face barriers because of their limited English and sometimes limited Spanish. This leaves many of them vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination.

“Radio Indígena is hosted and run by the Mixteco Indígena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), a nonprofit organization formed to provide health outreach, humanitarian support and language interpretation to this underserved and often unnoticed community. …

“Radio Indígena started when organizers saw a void in the city of Oxnard, but [Arcenio Lopez, executive director of MICOP and Radio Indígena] said that the station has listeners from all over the country and world, since the episodes are available to stream online. …

“Delfina Santiago and Carmen Vasquez co-host a show on Radio Indígena every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Even though they don’t get paid for their work, the two spend lots of time during the week preparing for their program, ‘Al Ritmo De Chilena,’ which is an educational program that delves into the history of different indigenous cultures for each episode.

Santiago and Vazquez say that the digital age has played a role in keeping their language alive and keeping folks connected to one another, in a world where they might otherwise feel alone. Indigenous Mexican music can be found on YouTube and SoundCloud. …

“ ‘We’ve already lost three languages in Oaxaca,’ Santiago lamented. ‘They’re gone.’ ”

More here.

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monarch-on-tropical-milkwee

Photo: Rose Franklin’s Perennials
A Monarch alights on Butterfly Weed. It also loves milkweed.

Sometimes I find the background for a post in a roundabout way. I heard about Mexico’s Monarch butterfly hero, Jose Luis Alvarez, recently on Public Radio International, which had borrowed his story from the BBC. But because I like to have text to work with, not just audio, I searched online for additional information.

I’m glad I did because practically in my own backyard there’s an organization that’s partnering with Alvarez and helping folks far from Mexico to plant the Butterfly Weed that Monarchs love. Here’s what I learned at Vermont Woods Studio.

According to Peggy Farabaugh, “Jose Luis Alvarez  … is a silviculturist in Mexico who has devoted his life to restoring the forested winter habitat of the Monarch.  [In March 2016] I traveled to Michoacan, Mexico, to meet Jose Luis & see his work. I love Monarchs & we’ve been conserving their summer habit here in Vermont for many years, so I thought maybe we should collaborate and get some Vermont-Mexico synergy going!

“In 1997, Jose Luis created a non-profit called ‘Forests For Monarchs,’ which came to be known as the La Cruz Habitat Protection Program (in the USA) and the Michoacan Restoration Fund (in Mexico).  With donations from people all across the USA, Canada and Mexico, ‘Forests for Monarchs’ has been able to plant nearly 6 million trees.  …

“During the winter Michoacan, Mexico, is home to the entire species of the Eastern Monarch Butterfly (which summers in Vermont). [Illegal] deforestation has devastated the area. … [Jose Luis has] made great progress, but much re-planting still needs to be done.

“Here in rural Vernon, Vermont, a number of friends, neighbors, customers, gardeners and Vernon Elementary School children have been planting milkweed. … We’ve been growing milkweed from seed and giving the seedlings away to fellow Monarch lovers.

“Monarchs summering in Vermont are programmed to migrate to Michoacan, Mexico, in the fall.  There they join the entire population of their species, huddled together in the shelter of the last few remaining acres of their wooded winter habitat.  Mind-boggling, right?  How can an insect (that only weighs as much as a raisin) fly 3,000 miles, to the exact same location its ancestor came from –- when it’s never even been there before? I had to see it to believe it.  So …

“I traveled to Mexico (with my now grown up sons) to meet Jose Luis and we took his Spirit of Butterflies Tour last month. It was amazing.  But we were alarmed to see the extent of deforestation in the area.  Without help reforesting their habitat, the Monarch will soon go the way of the passenger pigeon & that would be just too sad.  So we brainstormed about developing a Vermont-Mexico partnership to help save the butterfly.

“Besides being a forester, Jose Luis is an internationally renowned speaker. He’s been featured in numerous documentary films by the BBC, National Geographic, the Canadian Broadcasting Channel and others. He’s been an advisor and guide to researchers, scientists, photographers & videographers from all over the world as they seek to save the Monarch. His work has been written about in newspapers including the Wall Street Journal & The New York Times.

“So we thought we should bring Jose Luis up to Vermont and New England for a speaking tour to raise awareness about the Monarch’s plight. I guess I got a little carried away and volunteered to help Jose Luis Alvarez plant a million trees in the Monarch’s over-wintering area of Mexico.” More here.

The Vermont Studios post was written originally in 2016 and updated last August.

Photo: Fernando Laposse/BBC
Jose Luis Alvarez is protecting Monarch butterflies by planting deforested areas with the trees they need when they winter-over in Mexico.

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https://butterflywebsite.com/foundats/lacruz/project.cfm

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MEXICO-VATICAN-SISTINE CHAPEL-REPRODUCTIONS

Photo: Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images
Miguel Francisco Macias was inspired to replicate Michelangelo’s frescoes not just because it is a stunning work of art, but because he realized the Sistine Chapel ceiling has almost the same dimensions as his church in Mexico. It took 18 years.

Don’t you admire people with big ambitions who see an implausible project through to its conclusion? This designer sought to replicate the Sistine Chapel frescoes on the ceiling of his church in Mexico. He thought it might take six years.

Sarah Stocking writes at Lonely Planet, “For the last 18 years, a retired graphic designer has been quietly painting a replica of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel at his local church in Mexico City. Miguel Francisco Macias began his opus in an attempt to offer people who cannot travel a glimpse at one of the most shining examples of European art, Macias told Aljazeera.

“The project, which is now displayed on the ceiling at Perpetuo Socorro Church in Colonia Moctezuma, was largely self-funded with small donations from parishioners. Macias worked on the weekends with two assistants. The work was divided into 14 canvases each of which is 45-feet wide. Macias knew from the beginning that he would not be able to paint facing up, the way Michelangelo did, so he painted the canvases first and then affixed them to the ceiling afterwards.

“Macias said he was inspired to replicate Michelangelo’s frescoes not just because it is a stunning work of art, but because he realised the Sistine Chapel ceiling has almost the same dimensions as his local church, reported Splinter.

“The realisation came to Macias on a trip to Rome with a friend in 1999. The artist spent hours in the chapel admiring the frescos. ‘I stayed until the guard made me leave,’ Macias remembers. He also measured the length and width of the Sistine Chapel with footsteps. He wrote the dimensions on a small sheet of paper and presented his idea to the pastor on his return. …

“Macias didn’t think the project would take him nearly as long as it did. ‘I said it would be a maximum of six years,’ he told Newsbeezer. While the project suffered many setbacks, including falls, floods and robberies, none was so potentially insulting as when the Mexico City government used taxpayer money to temporarily recreate the Sistine Chapel in the Zocolo in 2016 ahead of a visit from the Pope.

“Although the community rallied behind Macias and wrote letters requesting that the Pope visit Macias’ work in progress in addition to the government’s pop-up, they didn’t get the holy visit they were hoping for. Macias didn’t let it bother him and kept a sign in his make-shift studio that read, ‘do not give up Miguelito.’ ”

More at Lonely Planet, here.

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Among the many gifts our country has received from Mexico is the luminaria, which some of us put outside our homes on Christmas Eve. This gift originated back when Mexico was called New Spain and still included Texas.

I first learned about the custom in upstate New York years ago when, exhausted from wrapping presents, I took a walk around the neighborhood in the snowy darkness. “What’s that?” I wondered at one neighbor’s house. “How lovely!”

Since that year, I have put candles out every Christmas Eve in rain or snow, fair weather or foul. Sometimes the candles are in paper bags weighted with kitty litter. Sometimes they are in glass vases collected from florists.

This year my husband and I are cutting back a bit on the festivities at our house as we’re going to John’s church Christmas Eve and then to Vermont so that most of the family can ski (my husband, our kids, their spouses, our grandkids). I myself have three very fat library books that I hope to read in front of a nice fire.

Back to luminaria. I just looked it up on Wikipedia. Here is the entry, edited.

A luminaria is a small paper lantern (commonly a candle set in some sand inside a paper bag) which is of significance in the U.S. state of New Mexico at Christmas time, especially on Christmas Eve.

Traditional Christmas Eve luminarias are said to originate from Spaniard merchants impressed with Chinese paper lanterns. The paper bags are typically arranged in rows to create large and elaborate displays. The hope among Roman Catholics is that the lights will guide the spirit of the Christ child to one’s home.

More.

Whatever holidays you celebrate, I hope you take delight in the oldest customs you know.

Photo: camerafiend/English Wikipedia
Christmas Eve luminaria (sometimes called farolito) are on display in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Photo: Señor Codo/Flickr
Mariachi singer in Chicago, 2006.

Oh, the Internet! Last night, my husband was able to track down a ton of information on a 19th Century Norwegian church in the town where we have lived for 35 years that no one ever mentioned to us. For all the scary things the Internet is responsible for, who could do without it today? There are so many great links we share with one another.

How else would I have learned, for example, that Mariachi bands were extremely popular in the former Yugoslavia. Mexican Mariachi? Crazy.

Jonny Wrate at the website Roads and Kingdoms has a report.

“Marina de Ita had dreamed of travelling Europe for years. Her band, Polka Madre, was heavily influenced by Balkan and Roma folk music and, back in the late nineties in Mexico City, she’d fallen in love with the music of Goran Bregović.

‘ ‘I used to have parties in a clandestine bar in my house in 1998 and people went crazy for those tunes,’ she says. ‘It came as a relief for many of us who were tired of rock and the music offered by Western countries.’

“In 2015, her band was invited to play at the International Circus Festival in Mardin, Turkey, and de Ita seized the chance for a quick trip to the region she’d long wished to visit.

“Once she arrived in Belgrade, she decided to make some money busking. ‘At first, I played some Finnish polkas and some from our Balkan-influenced repertoire, but nobody paid much attention,’ she says. ‘They just threw a few coins.’

“Yet when she played ‘Bésame Mucho,’ a seventy-year-old Mexican bolero, a small crowd gathered around her. Some sang along. ‘An old man became very emotional and even shed a few tears,’ de Ita says.

“The warm reception took her by surprise, but half a century ago, such songs dominated Yugoslav airwaves. As a Croatian friend’s mother recalls, ‘It was always Mexican songs and Bollywood films.’ …

“Explore the many shelves in Belgrade’s Yugovinyl store today and you can quickly amass a pile of ‘Yu-Mex’ records. The faded photographs on their sleeves depict men with names like Ljubomir Milić and Đorđe Masalović, proudly wearing sombreros and glittering charro suits. On the turntable, these records sound straight out of Guadalajara, except that the lyrics are in Serbo-Croat. For the Mexicans that ruled the radios here were, in fact, Yugoslav.”

More at Roads and Kingdoms.

I do love this kind of unexpected cultural cross-fertilization. Who knew?

 

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