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Transborder Dialogues: Migration through children's eyes

The Issue

Migration from Mexico has been an issue of social, political and economic concern since the early 1940s in California. Mexican families migrate to California in search of a better quality of life. Some families travel with their children to California and others leave their children behind in Mexico with extended family members. The children often experience social isolation and the voices of these Mexican migrant children and youth are rarely heard.

What Has ANR Done?

In 2007, UC Cooperative Extension 4-H advisors coordinated a binational photo documentary project with Mexican migrant children in California and Veracruz, Mexico. This project, titled “Transborder Dialogues: Migration Through Children’s Eyes,” was initiated in 2006.

ANR facilitated the organization and recruitment of young people, adult volunteers and staff from migrant communities in Gilroy and Santa Maria and raised funds for the project.

The photo documentary project included a number of facets, including presentation of the idea to the children and parents, multi-media exploration of the migrant experience (drawing, singing, dancing and journaling), introduction to photography, and photo documentation of life in their communities. In California, young people were asked to express their own feelings concerning the migration of their own families and other members of the community. In addition, they were asked to describe life in California and their memories of Mexico. Youth in Mexico were asked to document their feelings of being left behind by their parent/s and their perceptions of the immigrant experience. Twelve girls and 12 boys from California and Mexico contributed to the exhibition.

The Payoff

Binational migrant youth create photographic exhibition

One hundred photographs were selected by the young people in Mexico and California to form a traveling photographic exhibition. Youth in California selected pictures that described their new homes, their family and themselves. Absent from the exhibition were images of new friends, school and their new community. Youth in Mexico selected pictures of family members who cared for them, their pets, and the new homes, cars and toys purchased with the remittances from their migrant parents.

The exhibition was displayed in Texin and Mozomboa, Veracruz, Mexico, in December 2007; in Gilroy in May 2008; and in Santa Maria in June 2008. In viewing the exhibition, the public saw how children were able to capture, through photography, their daily lives, joys and dreams. The exhibition showed the pain of separation, loved ones’ absence and youths' vulnerability.

Clientele Testimonial

"I never imagined my photos were going to be shown like this; it makes me feel good about myself." - Photographer Elizabeth

"I couldn’t believe they had such feelings inside of themselves." - Father of photographer


Supporting Unit: 4-H Youth Development Program

A. Michael Marzolla,(805) 692-1730, ammarzolla@ucdavis.edu

Fe Moncloa,(408) 282-3107, fxmoncloa@ucdavis.edu