By Tim W. Shenk
Coordinator, Committee on U.S.-Latin American Relations (CUSLAR)
Excerpted from the opening article of the issue, Making Sanctuary: Claiming and Defending our Human Rights.
“I love my country
By which I mean
I am indebted joyfully
To all the people throughout its history
Who have fought the government to make right”
– Ani DiFranco, from “Grand Canyon” (2004)
DiFranco argues that making things right often means “fighting the government.” Many current struggles for rights – for healthcare, housing, land, dignified work, a quality education, even the right to family – are essentially a confrontation with the state. This issue of the CUSLAR Newsletter reports on a few of these struggles across the hemisphere and at home in Central New York.
In particular, as its title suggests, the issue focuses heavily on the U.S.-Mexico border, with a particular spotlight on the El Paso, Texas-based Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR). With its “Hugs Not Walls” events, BNHR creates a sort of temporary sanctuary at the Rio Grande for three-minute reunions for separated families. Their community power makes it possible, in an increasingly militarized zone, to protect the right of families to be together without intervention or questioning by Border Patrol.
Fernando García, founder and executive director of BNHR, visited Cornell University and Ithaca College in October. His Cornell lecture from the CUSLAR-Latin American Studies Public Issues Forum has been included on page 4. Kevin Maldonado’s research on border history and operations provides an important complement to García’s talk.
CUSLAR students Gabriel Fernandes and Kimberly St. Fleur participated as support staff at the most recent “Hugs Not Walls” event on October 26. Their reflections appear on pages 10 and 12, respectively.
Also as part of the border theme, Daniela Rivero interviewed Todd Miller, author of Empire of Borders, during his CUSLAR-sponsored visit in October. The transcript appears on page 14. On page 16, Joshua Lam shares the effects of the attempted erasure of indigenous rights and claims to border land. He focuses on the Tohono O’odham nation, whose territory spans both sides of the contemporary U.S.-Mexico border.
In addition, on page 20, Melanie Calderon explores how U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing policy has been discriminatory against the Latinx community. On page 22, Rebekah Jones discusses difficulties in implementing the Colombian Peace Accord, considering especially the complexity of developing a peace that considers justice of land tenure for the millions displaced by war. We finish this edition with a recommended reading list.