By Benjamin Gonzalez
A panel of Latino immigrant authors discussed their books and fielded questions to raise awareness of the struggles of immigrant youth at H.J. Patterson Hall Oct. 2.
The event was coordinated by the Latin American Studies Center (LASC) of the University of Maryland as part of the cultural and academic events the center puts on every year, according to LASC Coordinator Eric Tomala. It specifically fits into the theme of the “Year of Immigration,” an effort by the university to create a more inclusive environment.
“It’s a way to educate students that have not had the opportunity to leave the country to see what other people’s experiences are,” Tomala said. He says LASC has an objective to bring the community to the university to act as bridge for the “Year of Immigration.”
The panel comprised of three members of the Latino Youth Leadership Council (LYLC), a program supported by the Latin American Youth Center (LYAC) and created to develop a sense of support and community for Latin American youth, according to an interview on the LAYC website with the founders of LYLC.
The book the authors discussed, “Voces Sin Fronteras,” is a mixture of comics and essays and tells several stories, each one written by one of the 16 authors. The title translates to “Voices Without Borders.” Stories in the book have themes ranging from loneliness to bullying to the loss of a parent.
When people read the stories, “people are going to become more aware of immigration,” said Rosa, one of the book’s authors. Her story, called Black Butterfly, focuses on the loss of her father when she was a 7-year-old. During the panel, she mentioned that the intended audience for the book was youth, policy makers, and teachers.
“If a teacher reads the book, they’re going to know the struggles [Latino immigrants] go through,” said Rosa, who asked that only her first name be used for identification.
A community peace building specialist from the LAYC, who chose to go only by Juan, accompanied the authors and spoke about how “with time and energy and a lot of their love,” he was able to help the organizers of the LYLC grow their council.
As for what it meant to speak at the University of Maryland, Juan had this to say: “This is kind of like the vision. This is kind of like where they want to be.”
“Voces Sin Fronteras” was published by the non-profit Shout Mouse Press. The books proceeds go to a scholarship fund for immigrants going to college, and it is especially for people who cannot apply for financial aid, according to Sebastian, another of the book’s authors.
Following the panel’s presentation, there was some time for a Q&A with the authors.
“I was moved by the deep and compassionate and quite smart questions from the students here,” said Executive Director of Shout Mouse Press Kathy Crutcher. “I think they treated our authors with the utmost respect, and, also, gave a piece of themselves back during the conversation.”