Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Upper Midwest Speaker Tour on Migration Hits the Ground Running

By John Pegg
Board of Directors, Witness for Peace Upper Midwest Region

Nancy Garcia, Administrator of the Center for the Orientation of Migrants in Oaxaca (COMI), along with Mexico-based WFP staffer Moravia de la O arrived this weekend to begin their month-long speaker tour in the WFP Upper Midwest region. Their arrival prompted a kick-off conference on immigration Sunday evening in Minneapolis. Nancy expressed interest in having a conversation with other Latinos on this side of the border who were working on immigration issues. As a result, we hosted a panel including three Latino community leaders from the Twin Cities. One had strong experience in economic development through forming a cooperative marketplace for Latino entrepreneurs. Another works as a community organizer, helping immigrants work together to claim their power and take collective responsibility for their lives. The third was a recent college graduate who works with young people and their families to gain access to higher education.

Following their presentations and a group discussion, we enjoyed an excellent Oaxacan dinner prepared by a local chef who recently migrated here and gathered around tables for small group conversations. After dinner we enjoyed a one-act play produced by a St. Paul Latino social theater company called Teatro del Pueblo. Then we closed with an update on how the legal system affects migrants in Minnesota by the Executive Director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota. Moravia said that she thought it was a great opportunity to plug into the immigration reform movement those who had not been actively involved so far. Nancy felt that she learned a lot about what the immigrant experience was like for people once they made it to the U.S. She never realized that migration across Mexico wasn’t the only challenge and that people here still had many difficulties and barriers to overcome before they could achieve what they all were looking for by migrating to the U.S. It was a great opportunity for cross-border dialogue and a highly informative and inspirational gathering to begin our tour!

On Monday we kicked into high gear with three presentations by Nancy on two campuses, Macalester College in St. Paul, and the University of Minnesota main campus in Minneapolis. We premiered the Witness for Peace Mexico-based International Team’s outstanding short new video on the roots of migration with a showing of “Perils of Migration,” which features Nancy and her work at COMI. The video was created in collaboration with volunteer documentarian Kate Fenner.

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