Magazine article In These Times

Cross-Cultural in Connecticut

Magazine article In These Times

Cross-Cultural in Connecticut

Article excerpt

NEW HAVEN, CONN.-IN early October, Lorenza Rodriguez Mendoza arrived in New Haven, Conn., to visit her daughter, whom she hadn't seen in 10 years.

She and nine other women made the trip from Tlaxcala, Mexico, with a three-month travel visa to visit family members who had come to the United States to work.

The women's journey began seven years ago, when they formed a community organization in Tlaxcala, the smallest state in Mexico. Many of New Haven's Mexican immigrants come from this region.

Marco Castillo, an anthropologist from Tlaxcala, had passed through New Haven a couple of years earlier and met John Jairo Lugo, an organizer with Unidad Latina en Acción, a local grassroots group that supports undocumented immigrants.

Lugo has a biweekly radio show in Spanish called Barricada- or "Barricade"- on community station WPKN in Bridgeport, Conn., and he began devoting the last 15 minutes of each show to calls from Tlaxcaleños living in New Haven. Listeners in Tlaxcala would link to the program through the Internet, then broadcast it to Radio Universidad, where many community members could listen.

As the women in Tlaxcala heard their loved ones' voices on the radio, they decided to visit them in the United States, through a celebration of their culture-their language, food and dance.

On Columbus Day weekend, they put together a dance performance that attracted about 150 people, Lugo reports. The celebration-called the First Festival for the Identity of the Americas-took place at a park in Fair Haven, a Mexican neighborhood of New Haven.

A dinner featuring food from Tlaxcala followed a week later at a local restaurant. Dozens of guests-both Mexican and Anglo-sampled traditional cooking.

"We don't want to forget our roots," says Manuela Cuapio, a social psychologist in Tlaxcala, who came to New Haven to visit her father. "We want the children who were born here to know their culture, too. …

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