EL PASO — For longer than we can remember immigration to the United States has come mainly from south of the border and a silent majority of these migrants end up working as farm workers.
They usually never regain a voice to share their experiences and thoughts, but in 2005, a book entitled Memorias del Silencio published some of their stories. Since that time, six volumes of their tales have appeared and a seventh is scheduled for publication this fall.
Their objective is to develop new educational opportunities for farm workers and to bring awareness of their condition to the United States.
Memorias del Silencio is a collaboration between BorderSenses, a non-profit literary organization and the El Paso Community College’s Community Education Program (CEP). The CEP provides free educational and support services, including ESL, literacy, GED, health literacy, and community literacy instruction to economically and academically disadvantaged residents of El Paso County.
“Through the Memorias del Silencio collection, the CEP attempts to help students transgress barriers. The vehicle for this is their own voices. Rather than using a pedagogy that reproduces oppressive structures, CEP offers creative writing workshops as a vehicle to share their dreams and hopes while overcoming bias and barriers to success.” Andrés Muro, manager of the CEP said.
Project director, Minerva Laveaga, explains that through the GED courses that the CEP offers to farm workers and their families, BorderSenses has offered creative writing workshops in various communities in the El Paso, Texas area. “Unfortunately, those who cross the border to work in the fields are more often spectators rather than actors in the writing of their own stories,” Laveaga said.
Laveaga also said that there are journalists and academics who have written about migrant farm workers. However, in spite of all these attempts, she said, the concept of what a migrant farm worker is, is an incomplete concept in terms of the true understanding of it by the general population. “We need to give them the necessary tools so that they can write their part in the history of our countries,” adds Laveaga.
The book series has published around 150 stories in its six volumes. Laveaga and writer Francisco Tedeschi, offer the creative writing workshops and edit the stories for publication. “I liked the writing workshops because I learned how to express myself in a better way. I appreciated details in everything that I didn’t use to see. I never thought that literature would change the way I perceive the world. I like to read now and I am eager to learn more” said Silvia Barrios, author of Ancora in the second volume of the series.
About the upcoming book, author Sandra Cisneros said, “In these times of mexiphobia, the voice that we need is that of the immigrant. These testimonies are essential to the understanding of the history of the fronterizos.”
The project Memorias del Silencio relies on grants and private donations. It is one of the three community projects sponsored by BorderSenses that include a bilingual literary journal and the Barbed Wire Open Mic reading series. The organization is currently accepting donations as part of their annual fundraising drive that will conclude with an Appreciation Party on May 20 at 7:00 pm in the San Carlos Building on 501 Texas Ave. in El Paso, Texas. The event will feature a jazz band, raffles, and art auctions. The Memorias del Silencio books and BorderSenses journals will be on sale.
For more information about this project visit: http://www.bordersenses.com/memorias/