Conciencia Libre’s Conference

Discussion of international problems are cause for impact and outreach to Latino populations

On Thursday Nov. 13, Conciencia Libre hosted a conference on transnationalism. “Thinking Globally, Acting Locally” was highlighted with different community organizers and academic scholars. The event addressed the changing dynamics in migration from local policies to the global repercussions in both the US and Mexico-Central American regions.

Dr. Armando Mejia a political science professor at Occidental College and visiting scholar at UCLA commenced the event. Appropriately, he addressed the composure of Latinos and Hispanics within the United States and he illustrated the future demography of Latinos. By 2050, he says, the Latino population (including those born in the United States) will be the majority of the minorities, a reflection of the current Los Angeles demographic. More interestingly, he breaks down Latinos in the labor force. Though some Latinos are in the professional sector, Mejia highlights that the majority end up in the service sector, which is attributable to the overwhelming high school drop-out rates within the Latino community. Mejia coupled his presentation with the reactionary policies of Washington, which aided in focusing on the influx of migration within the recent years.

The executive director of El Rescate, Salvador Sanabria, gave a presentation on the issues harboring Salvadoran immigration. Currently, one-third of the Salvadoran population is stationed in the United States, most of which, according to Sanabria, reside in Los Angeles. Sanabria attributes the strong Salvadoran presence to the Temporary Protection Status, also known as TPS, which provides a temporary haven for immigrants who cannot return to their country due to violent or dangerous situations. El Rescate was founded in 1981 and has played an active role in both the United States and El Salvador. One of their impressive accomplishments includes its role in the peace accords signings following the civil war. At the local level, they have provided many Salvadoran immigrants with legal services and representation in the United States. In addition to aiding Salvadorans, El Rescate has broadened its cause and has promoted TPS for other nationalities, including Nicaraguans.

Following Sanabria’s presentation, Karina Muñiz the community outreach coordinator of the L.A. Conservancy addressed the issues for migrants in the United States. Her key topics included the social history and the fertilization of an immigrant culture and community. More alarmingly, Muñiz reports that services which inform immigrants about their rights have been limited due to the recent budget cuts which stem from the economic crisis haunting California.

The event concluded with a representative of the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA). Since 1991, IDEPSCA has organized immigrants and advocated a method of popular education to solve problems confronting the immigrant community. They were accompanied with personal accounts, ranging from immigrants who have faced constant obstacles since crossing various borders to others describing local discriminatory issues.

The night concluded with all the presenters participating in a panel with the audience. Rosemarie Molina and Frank Rodriguez, co-directors of Conciencia Libre, closed the night reminding students that education is not confined to a classroom; instead, it is an inherent responsibility to act upon the social, economic and political issues affecting our community.