Testimonies and Teamwork

The last two weeks has been defined by collaboration on all levels. Strengthening relationships with our partner organizations, finding ways to support each other to put on successful events and put our mission for peace and social action into practice. Examples of this transcendent work come in many sizes, colors, and sometimes even tastes. During the field studies, the Casa began to develop a relationship with two former guests from the migrant shelter Tochan to provide meals for students and Tochan guests to have time to spend together not under the premise of learning about migration, but of convivencia and nothing more. This has been a tremendous experience for us as the dimension of purpose and Quaker testimonies are put into practice twofold: supporting the catering business of migrants in need of work and setting the stage for genuine relationships and interactions focusing on equality instead of inequality, sameness instead of difference. We have tried to open even more spaces to support this type of business, such as the annual Casa de los Amigos asamblea, where important decisions about budgeting and programming for the year are made by the Casa’s board. As small as it may seem, having Marvin and his team provide the lunch was a moment of very intentional solidarity. They showed they national pride too by wearing aprons designed from the Guatemalan and Honduran flags.

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More collaboration has also been going on between Casa de los Amigos and Casa Refugiados, mostly in preparation for International Women’s Day. Together myself and Mara helped plan for two events, one a panel discussion where migrant and refugee women shared their testimonies of life in Mexico City. They touched on difficult topics of family separation and reunification, institutional and workplace discrimination, and general ignorance on the part of Mexican society about refugees and migrants. Of the three women, one was from El Salvador and had fled the Civil War in the 80s, already well adjusted to life in Mexico, the second to give her testimony was a Venezuelan refugee who had come to Mexico City roughly a year ago. The third, with her 15 month old in her arms, shared her story of reunification from Honduras to Mexico to be with her husband (a Colombian refugee). If anything is for certain, their stories are complex, bound up in personal traumas and an uncertain futures. Still, to give that space to their testimonies was powerful, especially in recognition of so many women whose stories go unheard. Many of the migrant and refugee women in our network have lost children, or are single mothers, or have been separated from their partners or families. The event was a huge success, with progressive press such as Subversiones and Proceso present, and was an example of the types of resources that our network can provide. Casa de los Amigos put coffee service and offered its space (and I designed the poster), Casa Refugiados provided logistic support and press releases, Tochan’s coordinator Gabriela Hernandez, financial support by Sin Fronteras and attendance by organizations such as COAMI, ACNUR, and others.

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Día de la mujer

And that’s just the beginning! There’s another event on March 8th (actually International Women’s Day), for which we planned a day of workshops, activities and convivencia at Cafemín. We look forward to inviting both men and women to participate in the events of the day, which will celebrate and contribute to dialogue about the importance of International Women’s Day, and using the space as an opportunity to focus on the meaning of female identity to the women in the refugee and migrant community. Men will be invited to participate in a separate workshop, focused on masculinity in its relationship to the gender binary. We hope to see a lot of people there!

Another exciting piece of news is that I have been accepted into a program at UNAM’s University Culture Center’s “Youth Promotors of Human Rights School” through their Center for Human Rights Studies. I have two friends that will be in the school with me, which will take place at UNAM every Saturday from March 15th until the end of October. Couldn’t be more excited for the doors and windows and ceilings this opportunity is going to open for me!

In between all of this activity I’ve re-initiated a series of linoleum prints, chosen to focus my Haverford research topic on poetry written by Syrian writers in Mexico City on the topic of exile using publications of Casa Refugio’s magazine Lineas de Fuga, attended a paper maché workshop, established a relationship with a local bike shop interested in employing migrant youth, made a big supper of beet/black bean vegetarian burgers and dog-sat a half pitbull half rhoadesian ridgeback pup of MCC friends.