CultureStrike to Host Event on Central American Migration

Mexico Migrants

Migrants ride on top of a northern bound train toward the US-Mexico border in Juchitan, southern Mexico, Monday, April 29, 2013. Migrants crossing Mexico to get to the U.S. have increasingly become targets of criminal gangs who kidnap them to obtain ransom money. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

The pro-immigration magazine CultureStrike in collaboration with Verso Books and Impact Hub Oakland will be hosting “Before the Destination: Migrations from Central America to the United States,” in an effort to shed light on the dangers that Central American immigrants face on their journey to the United states. The multidisciplinary event scheduled for Saturday, December 7, 2013 will feature the work of award winning journalist Óscar Martínez, photographer Edu Ponces and artist Favianna Rodriguez.

Martínez, author of “The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail,” will be doing a reading from his book. In October 2013 he was featured in NPR’s Alt.Latino show for his work in documenting the story of Central American’s who travel through Mexico to the U.S. border on freight trains known as La Bestia.

Ponces is an award winning, Spanish, photojournalist whose work has centered largely on the topic of migration. He co-authored the book “En el Camino: Mexico, la Ruta de los Migrantes Que no Importan (On the Way: Mexico, The Route of the Migrants Who do Not Matter).” Ponce’s exhibit will focus on the experiences of women on the Train, who face additional risk factors.

Favianna Rodriguez

Artist Favianna Rodriguez at the pro-immigration event “Face to Face: Action. Healing. Solidarity” in collaboration with French artist JR and his project Inside Out, on Thursday, July 25, 2013 in Oakland, Calif. (Photograph by: Natalie Rodriguez)

Rodriguez is an interdisciplinary artist and activist. She is an international lecturer, coordinator of CultureStrike and co-founder of the national organization, Her work will be present via an art installation.

Despite the many dangers of making the trip from Central America to the U.S. through Mexico via freight train, according to The New York Times, the number of American arrests of undocumented immigrants from Central American countries increased from 46, 997 in 2011 to 94,532 in 2012.

The event will take place at The Hub Oakland located at 1423 Broadway Ave., Oakland, Calif.; from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Admission will be free. Register for the event via the Facebook Event page or through Eventbrite.

Mexico Migrants Attacked

A group of Central American migrants read the news of their ordeal from a local newspaper outside of a shelter after they were attacked on the freight train they were riding through Mexico, in Acayucan, Mexico, Thursday, May 2, 2013. The United States-bound migrants had hopped on the train in southern Mexico and were traveling through the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz when attackers shot and cut them with machetes. Some jumped from the train to escape and others were thrown off, said migrants’ rights activist Tomas Gonzalez Castillo. At least 10 Honduran migrants are recovering from wounds suffered in the attack. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)

From Undocumented to DACAmented

From Undocumented to DACAmented from Natalie Rodriguez on Vimeo.

Mario Espinoza, twenty five, arrived in the United States with his mother and older siblings from Guatemala City after crossing the US/Mexico border with what he was told was a little girl’s visa at the approximate age of three. Being undocumented made him realize that he would not have the same educational or employment opportunities as his peers while he was in high school. As a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Espinoza explains how DACA has not completely changed his life.

Citlalli Odette Coria: Dancing “underdog” from Oakland

Citlalli Odette Coria is a 14-year-old dancer from Oakland, Calif. Her inspiration lies in her environment, her friends and family. She began dancing at the age of seven, competing at the age of 10, and taking private dance lessons at the age of 11. She has competed approximately 15 times and placed first several times. She finds beauty in her city, where other’s may not see it and considers herself to be the “underdog” when she shows up to competitions where others who are there to compete come from “nice places,” while she comes from a city with a “bad” reputation.

Oakland dancer, Citlalli Odette Coria, Talks About Accomplishments and Confidence from Natalie Rodriguez on Vimeo.

Her short hair flares out. Although her black, thick-rimmed glasses compliment her style, they may be one of the tactics a shy, 14-year-old girl uses to hide curious, glowing eyes. She applies her red lipstick with great care, looking at herself through the side mirror of a car in her family’s driveway. When she speaks, she does so with conviction and when she dances, the world is her own. Dancing she says has given her confidence. Confidence to speak and the confidence to dress as she pleases. She’s one of the middle children of Fidel and Dulce Coria and has three older siblings and a younger one.

She began dancing at the age of seven, which is her youngest sister’s age. In 2008 she began competing at the age of 10.  When she began taking private lessons at 11 she says that her competitions “began getting serious.” Coria has been taking lessons from the same instructor, Amy Lee Danya for years. “She has been teaching me from day one, she was my first dance teacher and I’m so thankful [that] she is still my teacher and friend,” says Coria.

She doesn’t remember how many competitions she has participated in, she estimates “about 15” in total.  “She was going to go to nationals,” says mom, “but she hurt herself.” Nationals were going to be held in Disneyland this summer and Coria did not attend due to an injured hip. “Being silly” is what mom says Coria was doing when she injured herself. With every trophy and award that Citlalli shows, mom knows exactly what competition it was from and when it took place, despite the fact that she is multitasking in the background.

She’s not quite sure where all of her trophies are. She knows they’re safely put away. “To be honest for competitions I don’t really give much feeling for my trophies I mean there a remembrance of what I accomplish but it doesn’t really define my feeling over dance.”

Competitions Citlalli has participated in:

Nexstar National Talent Competition 2011, First Place

Kids Artistic Revue (KAR) National Dance Competition, Placed First twice

Show Stopper Competition 2013, Double Platinum award

Oakland, Calif., is a city that receives a lot of negative attention. In a 24-hour period three people lost their lives, victims of violence on the weekend of August 17th. Coria describes her neighborhood as “beaten down” with “closed down factories,” garbage, and graffiti. However, despite the negatives, she manages to find inspiration in her city and is grateful for the colorful graffiti, which she says, adds a “nice texture” to her neighborhood.

Dancer, Citlalli Odette Coria, Finds Inspiration in Oakland from Natalie Rodriguez on Vimeo.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that the physical activity of children and teens has many health benefits including building healthy bones and muscles, improving self-esteem and reducing stress, Coria agrees. The Dana Foundation has found evidence that dancing has effects on the brain that can enhance learning in academic subjects as well.

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Youth Wisdom of Homies Empowerment Book Release

20130628 Youth Wisdom Book Release from Natalie Rodriguez on Vimeo.

Monserrat Rodriguez Ortiz is a 15-year-old, Oakland student, who is featured in the book “Youth Wisdom.” The book release took place at the Cesar Chavez branch library in the Fruitvale District of Oakland, Calif., on Thursday June 25, 2013. It is a publication of the Homies Empowerment Program. Cesar Cruz, co-founder of the program explains that Homies Empowerment works with “kids that are gang impacted, and in this neighborhood, who isn’t gang impacted? But we’re not a gang prevention program.” The program strives to educate the youth with “knowledge of self classes.” Rodriguez Ortiz explains that from Cruz she has learned about Raza history and the community. She hopes that through the book people see that Oakland youth “are not how people think they are” and that they “are making a change.”

“Youth Wisdom” features the work of 25 students from Arise High School who also participate in Homies Empowerment, including four pieces by Rodriguez Ortiz. According to the back cover of the book, the pieces “express life lessons bringing forth hope and a vision for a new way to live.”

Giving back to make a difference

Alejandro Bautista, a local tutor, works through a program named College Track to attempt to change the low numbers of high school graduates and college enrollment in Oakland. According to the Oakland Kids First! 2013-2016 Strategic Investment Plan published by the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth through the City of Oakland, the graduation rate for students of the Oakland Unified School District is 60%. Of the 60% that graduate, 46.3% enroll in college. College Track is one of the many programs listed under the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth’s list of neighborhood programs. Bautista, arrived in the United States at 12-years-old, attended Oakland public schools and participated in College Track. Today, he attends Chabot Community College, and works as a tutor for high school students in Oakland through the program. Besides tutoring in academics, Bautista believes that developing friendships with the students helps them academically because “you become one of their motivations to succeed.”

Fresno State Graduation

The 37th Annual Latino Commencement of Fresno State University at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., on June 18, 2013. The goal of programs like College Track is to get more students from Oakland into college. (Photograph by: Natalie Rodriguez/Full Sail University).