Dr. William Arrocha, Assistant Professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, recently shared his expertise and thoughts on compassionate migration, DACA, the upcoming presidential elections in Mexico, and what truly makes us human with Open Americas.
Can you describe your background? How did you become interested in the field of international policy and more specifically in U.S./Mexico relations, migration, and human rights?
I am an eternal migrant, born from immigrant parents in Mexico City, a place where many worlds have met, clashed and thrived for centuries. As someone born within an international and multicultural family, my reason for being will always involve more than one country or place. As the Argentina poet Facundo Cabral once said, “I’m not from here… I’m not from there.”
Being born in Mexico to an American mother and a Mexican father always placed me in the confines of U.S.-Mexico relations. Being raised in a family with parents engaged in the realms of the law, social justice, and human rights, studying in the French system during all my formative years and at my bachelors at the National Autonomous University of Mexico could not have taken me to any other path than that of an internationalist.
By Laura Schroeder
This International Women’s Day, as we applaud the political, economic, cultural, and social advancements of half the population, there is much to celebrate in the Americas.
In the past decade, there has been a striking increase in political and economic participation of women. Promisingly, government and NGO agendas alike are increasingly prioritizing gender equity as a cross-cutting, pressing issue, and slowly, collaboration is leading to progress. In Bolivia, approximately half of the legislative body is female. Paraguay recently passed Act 5777, providing protection against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), outlawing femicide, and providing services to survivors of sexual violence. Originating in Argentina, the #NiUnaMenos movement against sexual harassment and assault has made great headway across several countries, and has been followed by the US-rooted #MeToo movement.
This is not to say that women do not struggle every day to feel safe, be heard, be recognized for their contributions, and be valued in government and society. Indeed, experts maintain that the global gender gap will close in 79 years for Latin America and the Caribbean and 168 in North America.
Despite this, change makers are pushing forward, inspiring us to join them in their pursuits or to honor their legacies. Without further ado, here are some of the many she-roes that have confronted challenges to advance the status of women in the Western hemisphere.
By Alexia Rauen
On December 21, 2017, Reuters reported that ex-president Alberto Fujimori, in power from 1990 to 2000, had requested an official pardon from current President Pedro Kuczynski. The pardon was medical in nature; Kuczynski’s press release found that “prison conditions mean a serious risk to [Fujimori’s] life, health and integrity.” Fujimori requested the pardon “hours before [his] sympathizers in Congress vote on whether to remove Kuczynski from office.” Kuczynski then publicly pardoned Fujimori on December 24, 2017. In order to understand the significance and implications of the pardon, we must first delve into the political situation at this moment in Peru.
By Laura Schroeder
From the Zapatista movement in Mexico to the Shining Path’s activities in Peru, the Americas have experienced a great deal of political violence. Government structures have constantly changed and dictatorships have been toppled through force and the taking up of arms across the hemisphere. However, one of the most pervasive and dangerous myths is that systemic change requires violence. Nonviolent struggles to address corruption, environmental degradation, economic and social injustice, and political oppression have been– and continue to be– successful across the Americas. Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil have all ousted military regimes through the use of nonviolent resistance.
By Laura Schroeder
The 2012 film “Harvest of Empire,” based on the book of the same title by journalist Juan González of Democracy Now, demonstrates how U.S. policy toward Latin America has created political, social, and economic instability in the region. Directed by Peter Getzels and Eduardo López, it discusses the cases of Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. It also addresses the United States’ role in the military and corporate interventions that have triggered mass migration to the United States. Five years later, particularly given President Trump’s recent backing of the RAISE Act, the central theme of the documentary is relevant: anti-immigrant sentiments in the United States reflect a woeful ignorance of the structural forces that have caused millions in Latin America to flee their homes.
By Laura Schroeder
Fotografía y diseño gráfico por Andrés Ávila y Alberto Montañez/Photography and graphic design by Andrés Ávila and Alberto Montañez
El propósito de este proyecto es dar a conocer las vidas de los miembros de la economía informal en Tunja, Boyacá, Colombia y mostrar cómo cada uno contribuye a la sociedad y a la cultura; mientras los miembros de la comunidad perciben a los hombres y las mujeres que venden minutos o lustran zapatos como parte de la vida cotidiana, las fotos que tomamos y las citaciones y datos que las acompañan nos ayudan a reconocer la humanidad y el valor de cada cara, cada puesto de trabajo, y cada historia única y especial.
The purpose of this project is to illuminate the lives of members of the informal economy in Tunja, Boyacá, Colombia, showing us how each one contributes to and strengthens society as a whole. While community members see men and women selling phone minutes or shining shoes as part of quotidian life, the photos we took and the quotes and facts that accompany them help us to recognize the humanity and value in every face, every job, and every unique and special history.
By Laura Schroeder
Spinning Stories in the Jungle
It was pitch black save for the stars that pierced the night sky and the faint glow of bioluminescent leaves underfoot, but Manuel could see. The hum of cicadas surrounded us as we wove around the thick growth of the jungle, and I tried not to stumble over the vines that snaked up ancient trees. Pointed stick in hand, Manuel spun stories of encounters with jaguars and deceitful ex-lovers as we traipsed to the river in hopes of catching a fish to bring back to our camp, where a caiman already hung from a line alongside our hammocks.
I had just completed a U.S. State Department-sponsored Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Colombia, and two members of my cohort and I had decided to spend some of our saved stipend on a trip to the city of Leticia, which is nestled between Brazil and Peru in Amazonas, a department in the south of the country. Having already taken the obligatory boat trip down the Amazon River to see monkeys, capybaras, and birds of all hues, we tasked ourselves with planning the remainder of the trip. However, when a man stopped by our hostel advertising a jungle trek with a local Huitoto guide, we were skeptical, as we had heard horror stories of cultural tourism gone awry. Luckily for him, he was persuasive and after five minutes, we paid him a small sum to go on the trip. Luckily for us, we spent three informative days conversing with our guide, Manuel, and his grandfather and aunt about their lives in both the city and the jungle, the history of the Huitoto people, and their struggle to keep it alive.