Migration Matters: An Interdisciplinary Program on Immigration at the U.S.-Mexico Border
This spring, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas is hosting a thought-provoking series that addresses prescient borderlands issues and features prominent people working in borderlands studies across a variety of disciplines, “Migration Matters: An Interdisciplinary Program on Immigration at the U.S.-Mexico Border.” The series began with an evening with Luis Alberto Urrea, the author of the newly released Queen of America, as well as five books banned by the Tucson Unified School District. (Check out the “Libro Traficante Website for more about Urrea’s banned books and more in Tucson.)
Urrea did not speak of Teresa Urrea, “La Santa de Cabora,” his great-aunt, muse, and subject of both his latest book and The Hummingbird’s Daughter (2005), but captivated the audience with his personal story as he passionately articulated his commitment to telling the stories of people living on the border, especially the poor.
On February 22, 2012, I attended a panel session entitled, “Barbed Wire, Border Myths, and Immigration Violence” featuring Roberta Villalon, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at St. John’s University in the Bronx, New York, María Herrera-Sobek, Chicana/o Studies professor from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and Josiah Heyman from the Anthropology and Sociology Department at the University of Texas, El Paso.
Villalon spoke about Mexican immigrant women who are particularly vulnerable to abuse and the avenues available to them to receive assistance and citizenship. Herrera-Sobek’s talk looked at the use of barbed wire in Chicano/a paintings as a metaphor that stands for U.S. anti-immigration sentiments. Heyman deconstructed some of the most durable myths about the U.S.-Mexico border: 1. The border is scary, and 2. If the border did not exist, all the problems associated with it would disappear.
Themes of violence, belonging, race, and gender emerged in all of the talks on this evening. What made the biggest impact on me was that each of the panelists was an activist as well as a scholar–a position that is often missing in academia and one that is especially relevant to those working in the field of borderlands studies. There are several more events left in the Migration Matters series, and each promises to be inspiring and significant to our work in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. If you are in the area, please come by and check it out. All events are free and open to the public.