Gabrielle Martinez '13 talks with a guest at the migrant house in Tultitlan.
It was the story of the family from Honduras, who had to hop passing trains in order to cross the border into Mexico, that particularly affected Jason Lozada ’11. “They had brought food with them,” he says, “but what they really wanted were gloves to make it easier to grab onto the trains.” Lozada later witnessed that same family running to catch yet another locomotive—reaching out with bare hands.
These four family members were just a few of the people Lozada and eight other Haverford students encountered this January during a field study tour of migration issues in Mexico, organized by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC) and the Alliance of Latin American Students (ALAS). The Haverford delegation, headed by CPGC Executive Director Parker Snowe ’79 and Associate Professor of History Jim Krippner, interviewed migrants from not only Central America but also Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, all making their way to the U.S. border. The group also met with activists from Amnesty International, the Catholic Church, the Mexican government and various nonprofits, all united in their mission to help migrants.
“ALAS is always looking to encourage awareness of issues pertaining to Latin Americans,” says Lozada, who once interned with the American Friends Service Committee’s immigration office and came up with the idea for the field study. He brought his proposal to his advisor, Jim Krippner, whose research and teaching spans many eras in Latin American history.
“I knew the students would quickly realize that this was much more complicated than an ‘us versus them’ issue, once they came into contact with migrants and the people working directly with them,” says Krippner.
During the study, the Haverford delegation stayed at Casa de los Amigos, a Quaker house in Mexico City that offers a safe haven for migrants and has hosted many CPGC summer interns. The selection of Mexico City as a home base was significant, says Parker Snowe: “Mexico City has a long history of global significance as a center of business but also political asylum. This includes generously accepting refugees from the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, World War II in the 1930s and 1940s, Latin America during the era of military dictatorships in the 1970s, Central America in the 1980s, and today from Haiti and various African countries.”
In addition to meeting with the migrants themselves, the students heard presentations by local activists on such topics as human trafficking and microfinance options for migrant workers. Krippner provided a reading list for the tour and led the group in discussion and debriefing sessions each evening.
The trip was eye-opening, says Lozada, who hadn’t known about the plight of Central American refugees until he met the Honduran family. “The Central America/Mexico border is much more dangerous than the U.S./Mexico border,” he says. “The migrants have to catch trains and cross deserts, and run the risk of being robbed by gangs or thrown off trains by the police.”
Back at Haverford, participants in the field study continued their explorations by enrolling in one of several Latin American-themed classes. And ALAS is still raising consciousness by sponsoring several on-campus events; these include a March screening of De Nadie, a documentary about Central American migrants, and an April talk by Enrique Morones, head of the organization Border Angels.
“We want to personalize the issue, and put faces to the numbers and statistics,” says Lozada.
Krippner is pleased with the success of the tour. “Students came back with a much more sophisticated understanding of how migratory population streams are working in the current globalized economy,” he says. “More than that, though, I think we all came back with a renewed sense that there are many people who care about this situation and are trying, in different ways, to address it.”