When I was scrolling down through the array of photos taken the day of the Southern Philadelphia trip my initial thought was that all the images translated a sense of belongingness. The photograph I choose came at the culmination of the panel of speakers that shared their migratory experiences and their entrepreneur journeys with our Mexican American communities class. The panel of speakers was perhaps the most touching moment for me throughout the entire experience, as it symbolized a form of storytelling that was reminiscent of the Latino community that I was raised in and expanded on the emotional ties that root migrants to cities like Philadelphia. I believe that hearing firsthand the struggles and resilience of the speakers when they spoke about their years building up their businesses and their activism in the community was much more impactful than hearing their voices translated into texts.
Although the history of the migratory circulation of the U.S Mexican border is important
in the context of understanding the pull factors that have created alienation for Mexican
migrants, the stories of cultural reconstruction and resilience from the people themselves spoke to me on a much deeper level. As I sat there listening to moments of pain in which one of the fathers expressed his grief, at not being able to see his children for years, it pained me to feel the separation of not just a border but of accessibility in the lives crafted for immigrants in the United States.
However his stories of not letting barriers interfere with his life in Philadelphia and
creating a ratio station with awareness to the string of Mexican business in the area was
inspiring. The relationship that all the speakers had with one another reminded me of the family bonding that was mentioned in Mujeres Luchadoras in which these imagined communities, of migrants, find home in similar experiences of food, culture, and organization. The collective experiences shared resonated with feelings of displacement I’ve felt in a campus that does entirely understand what it means to either come from immigrant families or share emotions of othering. These experiences more than validate my own, helped me reflect on the diversity of what it meant to migrate, and the efforts to share collectivity even when each circumstance might be different.
In retrospect, I choose this particular group photo after hearing the stories of the speakers
including the story of Alma the restaurant owner who after years of being denied the chance of
purchasing her own business opened her place in the middle of a pandemic. These stories to me signified one of the final themes we have been learning about which is that of migrant resilience and agency a narrative that does not get spoken about enough. In most narratives of migrants, there is a constant need to show them as people who have been victimized by this system, which in many ways is true but it leaves out the coming together of migrants to resist the dehumanization of the system.
The group photo shown above was my interpretation of togetherness and crafting belonging in a space that most of us can resonate with. The presence of the speakers in the photo reminds me of the generational learning and traditions that are passed down to our generation and how we become conscious of continuing what our own families started. Ultimately the trip, including the parade and the altar had me reflect a good deal on why I choose to pursue sociology, to better understand perspectives that aren’t always exclusively my own, and to engage in those experiences no matter how close or new they might feel.