Social Work and Community Partners Host Inspiring Site Visit for Mexican Youth
Published September 26, 2022
By Darlene Muguiro
UTEP College of Health Sciences
In late summer 2022, several UTEP departments and the administration were involved in a two-week-long visit from Jovenes en Acción (Youth in Action), a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered through the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, designed to expose Mexican youth to opportunities for leadership and social development. Under the leadership of UTEP’s Center for Environmental Resource Management, the UTEP Department of Social Work, P3 and Center for Community Engagement designed engaging activities that ultimately served 70 students, aged 17 to 21, from 15 different states in Mexico.
This year was the first time the program sent the students to the U.S.-Mexico border. Most of the students had never visited El Paso, yet one of the most tangible outcomes of their visit is a beautiful collection of artwork inspired by their visit to a historical site with a tragic past.
Dr. Eva Moya, associate professor and interim chair for the Department of Social Work, collaborated with ABARA, a local 501c3 that provides borderland experiences and humanitarian networking in El Paso and Juarez, to host the students for a half-day visit to the site of the former La Hacienda, known for its history of forced migration. Social Work students, alumni, Cuidate El Paso staff and professors engaged the Jovenes in a site visit and conversation about what they felt. As students explored the site, many were moved by the experience, despite not having visited prior to that day.
“We had students crying, students who were really emotional. We had students visiting the actual wall,” Moya said, going on to explain, “As they were touching the wall, they saw a group of about 40 immigrants being detained by the Border Patrol, right in front of their eyes. It was very moving.”
After the site visit, Social Work students and professors provided prompts for the students and encouraged them to write and draw about their experience on pieces of cloth called “trapitos.”
“We then asked them to present their art, and led them in a conversation about what had moved them,” Moya said. “Many of them had families with lived experiences of forced migration, so they spoke about how they understood that many people don’t have a choice to go back to their country or city of origin, and it broke their hearts that families are separated.”
In total, the students produced 74 trapitos that are now hanging inside the historic La Hacienda. ABARA owns the property and plans to convert it into a museum. The cloth trapito line is the first piece of locally produced artwork in the site. Arturo Barrio, assistant vice president for international relations, took photographs of the trapitos and collated them into a video format, available here: https://www.facebook.com/jovenesenaccionEU/videos/787362589108563
“Each trapito represents a segment of each student’s perspective on the border and their experience at UTEP and in our community,” said Moya.
Video and images courtesy of Arturo Barrio