Though the world still considers the United States of America to be the land of immigrants, the nation that welcomes people from all nations, U.S. history and immigration policy tell another story. Heightened tensions over immigration—locally, nationally and internationally—have revealed this country’s troubled and disturbing relationship to immigrants and the struggle they face upon arriving in the U.S.: hopes of achieving the “American Dream” dashed, replaced with a harsh socioeconomic ladder, senseless immigration laws, and fear fomented by racism, xenophobia, and the reality of anti-immigrant violence in many U.S. towns. Myths and misinformation abound, and important parts of the immigrant story get left out of the narrative—namely, why immigrants set out on dangerous, physically and mentally wrenching journeys to destinations they often know little about.
Connecting Immigrant Stories: Mexico and Cuba
In this program the writing of Helen Dorado Alessi, executive director of the Long Beach Latino Civic Association and a Herstory Writers Workshop facilitator and writer, takes us on an educational and emotional odyssey. From a lush mountaintop in Oaxaca, Mexico to the island nation of Cuba, Helen shepherds us back and forth between her own family’s Cuban-American immigrant story and that of a Mexican grandmother, whom she meets in a remote and impoverished mountain village in the state of Oaxaca while on an educational delegation and whose children and grandchildren have immigrated to the U.S. from this isolated indigenous community.
Forced Migration and Family Separation
As Helen ushers us to and from Cuba and Mexico, she provides an opening to discuss the push factors that compel people to leave Mexico and Central America, never losing sight of the tremendous role that the U.S. plays in forced migration north from Latin American countries. Weaving together the disastrous results of failed trade policies, including family separation, anguish, and profound loss, Helen leaves us with these important questions: “Why does this need to happen? Why must generations of families be sprinkled across the globe?”
The program’s host is Sandra Dunn, longtime facilitator of Herstory’s East End Spanish-language workshop for Latinas and a program director at the Hagedorn Foundation, where she manages the local immigration and civic engagement grantmaking. The Hagedorn Foundation has funded annual Roots of Migration educational delegations for Long Islanders to Oaxaca, Mexico since 2010 through grants to Witness for Peace.