Migrants and Their Stories Take Center Stage at Instituto Cultural de México

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Betsabeé Romero's exhibition is displayed in Mexican Cultural Institute San Antonio.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Betsabeé Romero's exhibition is displayed at the Instituto Cultural de México.

The Instituto Cultural de México, under the direction of the Mexican Consulate in San Antonio, is gearing up for a week of programming that revolves around the topic of migration.

From June 12-18, guest speakers at the Institute will talk about migration, miscegenation, mobility as a critical statement, empowering local communities to defend their rights, the struggles and accomplishments of immigrants, and what makes Mexican migration different. In addition to the panelists, there will be workshops, an art exhibit, a bilingual storytelling performance, and a play in conjunction with AtticRep at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

"We want to analyze migration as a phenomenon with consequences that are not necessarily negative," Instituto Cultural de México Director Mónica del Arenal told the Rivard Report in Spanish. "There is this multiculturalism – people who arrive with a spirit of entrepreneurship or a strong desire to work, which in turn builds a better society.

"The panel on Wednesday, June 14, for example, will feature binational students, the artist Betsabeé Romero, a representative from RAICES, and it will be moderated by Consul General of Mexico Reyna Torres Mendívil," del Arenal said. "These individuals will all provide a different vision of the migration topic, a phenomenon that affects San Antonio. It's important to talk about it, discuss it, and reflect."

The Institute has titled the week-long venture: "A World of Migrants: A Week to Understand Migration," with programming that aims to shed light on the immigrant journey, the phenomenon of migration, and the challenges that migrants experience as they try to make sense of their identity and culture in a new country.

"The cultural part of all this is universal," del Arenal said. "We want the public to come to the art exhibit and look at Betsabeé's pieces, read the text, and experience a poetic connection to El Vuelo y Su Semilla / The Flight and its Seed. The exhibit is all about this seed that changes course as the wind blows and it germinates elsewhere and bears fruit – this is a great poetic way to talk about the phenomenon of migration."

As to the play at the Tobin, titled Through the Wall, del Arenal said the work is based on real stories of immigrants in San Antonio recorded by playwright Regina Moya and translated to English in order to make it more accessible to the audience. The Institute is trying to branch out and have a presence at other venues in order to expand its reach and target different audiences, not just those that frequent its location at 600 Hemisfair Plaza Way.

"We want to continue this link that we have with AtticRep, the resident theatre company at the Tobin, with more frequency," del Arenal said. "We want the Institute to have a voice and space in other places and collaborations with local institutions, academics, and artists."

In addition to preparing regular year-long programming, del Arenal is gearing up for the city's Tricentennial celebrations in 2018, a year that also marks 50 years since HemisFair '68.

"The building we are in now was a part of the Mexican Pavilion 50 years ago, so the year 2018 has double significance for us," she said. "We will have programming all year focused on all these themes – the city's 300 years, the link between Mexico and Texas, and the confluence of cultures in that came together for the 1968 World's Fair."

Below is a schedule of the institute's week-long programming on migration:

When People Migrate / Cuando la gente emigra

Monday, June 12, 6-8 p.m.
Instituto Cultural de México

Bilingual storyteller Carolina Quiroga-Stultz will host a storytelling performance and workshop for children and their families. Though legends and fables, Quiroga-Stultz will push the audience to rethink the phenomenon of migration and forced displacement and to understand its causes.

Moving Forward: Five Approaches to the Migration Phenomenon / Siguiendo hacia adelante: cinco aproximaciones al fenómeno migratorio

Wednesday, June 14, 6-8 p.m.
Instituto Cultural de México

Experts from across different fields will discuss the migration experience and address topics such as the protection of migrants, the role of art and literature, human trafficking, and the study of migration as a sociocultural phenomenon. Ambassador Reyna Torres Mendívil, the Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio, will lead the panel.

Participants:

  • Jonathan Ryan, executive director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Legal Services (RAICES)
  • Carolina Canizales, coordinator for the UTSA Center for Civic Engagement
  • Tania Treviño Guerra, student at Texas A&M University-San Antonio pursuing a degree in bilingual interdisciplinary studies.
  • Carlos Aguilar, binational student at UTSA
  • Harriett Romo, Ph.D., sociology professor at UTSA, director of UTSA's Mexico Center, and director of Bank of America Child & Adolescent Policy Research Institute (CAPRI)
  • Betsabeé Romero, visual artist
  • Panel chair: Reyna Torres Mendívil, Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio

El Vuelo y Su Semilla / The Flight and its Seed

Opening: Thursday, June 15, 6-8 p.m. (Exhibition will be open through Aug. 27)
Instituto Cultural de México

El Vuelo y Su Semilla is an exhibition by renowned Mexican artist Betsabeé Romero, who lives and works in Mexico City. The exhibit is made up of contemporary installations that reflect on the identity and culture that Mexican immigrants carry with them in their journeys to the United States.

Romero's work explores this topic through symbolic objects like papel picado, cars, tires, skulls, and culinary components like bread and corn. Her body of work, which recycles found objects to transform them into narrators of stories, places Mexican culture as a fundamental part of the migrant journey from Mexico to the U.S. Her pieces center around migration, miscegenation, and mobility through "the re-semantization of symbols" and everyday rituals of the global consumption culture.

Romero has participated in numerous residencies and has had more than 40 solo exhibitions in Mexico, the U.S., and Europe. Her solo exhibitions have been featured at the British Museum, Nevada Museum of Art, Neuberger Museum, Nelson & Atkins Museum of Art, Museo Anahuacalli, Museo Amparo in Puebla, MARCO y Museo de Monterrey, Canberra University Museum, Museo Carrillo Gil, and la Recoleta in Buenos Aires, among others.

This exhibition is organized in conjunction with the Consulate General of México, with the support of Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID) of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Through the Wall / A través del muro

The Tobin Center, 100 Auditorium Circle | Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater
Friday, June 16, 8 p.m.
Saturday, June 17, 8 p.m.
Sunday, June 18, 2:30 p.m.

Through the Wall / A través del muro is part of the International Fest of Theater, produced by AtticRep. The play, directed by AtticRep’s Producing Artistic Director Roberto Prestigiacomo and written by playwright Regina Moya, is based on a collection of testimonials from Mexican immigrants that shed light on the stories of children, women, men, and families that cross the U.S.-Mexico border in search of the American Dream. Scene design for the play was created by Mexican visual artist Betsabeé Romero. To buy tickets, click here.

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