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A few days ago Luz and I met a woman on the comi, one of the minivans that serve as regional transportation, stopping anywhere along their route if they are hailed. We were on our way to a free theater production and this woman, Magdelena, said she was going there as well. We got to talking and she told us about living and working in Arizona for seven years, and how la migra detained her husband who is now sitting in jail for two years. Magdelena is Purepecha, the indigenous of the Michoacan area, and is one of many men and women who have traveled to Arizona to work. Migration patterns have shifted much over the years, making the current migrating population increasingly indigenous and from farther south. It is almost like there is another Arizona here in Michoacan: in the memories and thoughts of people here.

Luz and I have begun a new project, with Magdelena as our first interviewee: a documentary on migration, focusing on women’s voices and thoughts. Magdelena really opened up to us over a 26 minute interview, talking about her hopes and fears, her memories and her current struggles. Needless to say it was an intense interview and really opened our eyes to more of the reality for folks around here. We are going to continue conducting interviews with people who have migrated to the United States, in an effort to counter the anti-immigrant myths and memes which provide the base for militarization and criminalization. I am especially interested in talking to women, as they have borne the brunt, in whatever country they are in, of both working and raising families. As a result, women like Magdelena rarely have the time for learning English which maintains a separation from the white-stream/mainstream. I absolutely do not think that to be in the United States you MUST learn English. But without language proficiency, possibilities for engagement in organizations and utilization of all opportunities is harder.

So far I have a handful of questions I may or may not use in each interview. As of now, I want to focus on Magdelena and her familybecause I think framing this issue in humanizing terms, i.e. a mother and a family as a subject, not just a bunch of individuals, can be an important tool in countering the dehumanizing and xenophobic rhetoric filling the airwaves. Here are some of the questions I will be posing to Magdelena’s family and friends:

  1. How is your family affected by la frontera?
  2. What were your experiences crossing?
  3. Why did you cross?
  4. What did you expect to find? What did you find?
  5. In the American schools, what is taught about Mexico?
  6. From families, what is taught about Mexico?
  7. In Mexican schools, what is taught about the United States? From families?
  8. What kind of organizations did you find in the United States?
  9. How does community life compare in the United States to here?
  10. How would you describe the history of the border? Especially migration, risks, kinds of bosses etc.
  11. What is the history of migration from here? (Comachuen, Patzcuaro, wherever we are doing the interview)
  12. What have been your experiences of racism?

Interviewees are not limited to just Magdelena’s family and friends, but thats my launching point for now. I am going to try to focus on women’s voices either way.

Sending you waves of clarity, strength, love, and inspiration.

Yours,

james

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2 thoughts on “A New Project

  1. I think those are great questions.But I would suggests perhaps instead of posing questions allowing the questions to emerge from Magdelena’s experience.For example, when I taught ESL and Civic literary at NICE (New Immigrant Community Empowerment), I asked my students to write their migrant histories to share with each other at the end of the program. This approached allowed the students to frame their own stories without me imposing any signposts. I say this because some of the questions presuppose certain experiences, for example, “What have been your experiences of racism?” Undoubtedly,Magdelena might have confronted racism, but Magdelena might describe it differently and her language matters. Just something to keep in mind.

    Thanks for asking for feedback. This is a great project.Here are my questions:

    1)How would you describe el norte?

    2)Has your perception of the U.S. changed after migrating?

    3) How would you describe el norte now to someone who has never been in the U.S.?

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