Karen Prangan, Psychology, BMC ’22

This semester, I had the wonderful opportunity to take Mexican American Communities, a Praxis course based in the Sociology Department and taught by Professor Montes. I was initially drawn to it by not only its macro and meso-level analyses of the US-Mexico migration, but also by its focus at the micro-level, exploring how migration has directly affected Mexican migrants, their families and communities and their daily experiences. On October 30th, our class took a field trip to South Philadelphia where we were able to meet community members and hear each of their unique migration stories. This photograph captures one of my favorite moments: our class learning about the realities and hardships of US-Mexican migration but also the moments of joy and healing that emerges from finding a sense of belonging and a community that reminds you of home in an unfamiliar land.

One of the biggest beliefs I have about education is that learning can occur outside of a four-walled classroom. I believe in the value of immersing yourself in the community/space and really learning from the people who live the experiences you are studying. For me, it’s one thing to read about Mexican-US migration history in formal, academic paper, and another to visualize, hear, and understand the events and emotional experiences from community storytellers who have lived and currently live the experiences we read about. I often feel like there is a disconnect between aspects of history we learn about in college classes and the impact it has on an individual level to those who have lived those histories. It helped me put into perspective that this isn’t a far-fetched abstract theory we often read about in classes and something a community a train ride away has grappled with for a large part of their lives. This photograph showcases how active and relevant fieldwork can be a gamechanger for students’ education.

In our course, we have read and discussed extensively about how migrants make sense of their identity as well as engage in homemaking practices and nostalgia products. As we sat in the heart of the Mexican/Italian Market in South Philly after a wonderful lunch at Alma Del Mar, whose owner captivates our attention in the photograph, I felt the resistance and resilience the Mexican migrant community has built by reconstructing their homelands across the border. It is heartwarming to know there exists a community to support them and help ground many migrants. We were able to see and hear about the worry, anguish, and grief that comes with the unknown, the uncertainty of the future, and even the present. But it is especially encouraging to see that despite these harsh realities, there are moments of hope, joy, and pride that help them resist. For many students in this class, this course hit very close to home and as the daughter of immigrants myself, it’s a privilege to experience such a dynamic course, taught in collaboration with those who were willing to vulnerably share their current realities.