Veronica Mellado, Political Science, BMC ’24

This photograph of the students and guest speakers on the panel in the restaurant speaks volumes for me as it represents the importance of community-building between migrants and demonstrates the great impact that hearing testimonies of immigrants has. The students in this picture are a vehicle for the guest speaker’s stories to come to life, and allow the speakers to give their own perspectives on the life of a Mexican immigrant. Each guest speaker illustrated their journey to America and the obstacles they have faced over the years as they resist assimilation and celebrate their roots. Javier expressed the importance of worker’s rights and the lack of protection of undocumented workers in the realm of construction. This relates back to the film we have watched in class, “The Hand that Feeds”, as it pertains to undocumented worker’s rights and how difficult it is for immigrants to unionize and advocate for better working conditions and pay, as they fear the possibility of being deported. Alma, the owner of the restaurant, echoed this sentiment as she experienced the threat of being deported while attempting to purchase a space for her restaurant.

All guest speakers explained the importance of family and their desires to give their children better lives. This photograph is a representation of the realized dream of the owner of the restaurant as well as the sacrifice that many immigrant parents are willing to make so that their children may have an education and better opportunities. The children of immigrants also take on tremendous burdens, as the children of the speakers have inevitably encountered. In our readings and discussions we explored and observed transnational families and how several families are separated in the efforts and endeavours of building a better life for their children. Parents make the sacrifice of leaving their children behind, knowing that they will probably not see them grow up. One film we watched, “Guanajuato Norte”, showcased the life of a Mexican immigrant farm worker who could only visit his family in Mexico once a year. His story was only one among the countless stories of separated families, and illustrated the loneliness in migration.

The speaker in this photograph also symbolizes the obstacles of migrants who wish to create new businesses or restaurants in the United States. In this class, we discussed several successful  migrant stories, including the story of Cristina Martinez, who successfully made a South Philly restaurant famous for their barbacoa. The immigrants who are successful in creating their own businesses have remnants of their culture and incorporate as well. The restaurant itself is a testament and embodiment of the  nostalgia that immigrants have in reference to their country of origin. The readings and films reinforce the idea that Mexican American immigrants do not assimilate easily and build communities of people that share their values, backgrounds, and traditions. For example, the film, “Adelante”, touched on the gathering of Mexican-American immigrants in a small town centered around their religious practices and traditions. They were able to find refuge in recreating an environment similar to one they had grown up with in Mexico.

Personally, this photograph resonated with me because of the emphasis on community and listening to migrant voices and stories. Their vulnerability and honesty was powerful in their testimonies, as they discussed several obstacles they have faced as well as their role in their community as advocates. Listening to their testimonies and first-hand experiences with racism, crossing the border, and language barriers were very impactful. I was personally moved from hearing the stories of these speakers as they reminded me of my own family and the struggles they endured in migrating to the United States. The picture shows how their presentation and discussion was very impersonal and authentic. I really appreciated having the opportunity to hear their stories as they have further explained the life and resilience of Mexican immigrants in America.