This evening, I attended the third annual Indie & Foreign Film Festival at the Migrant Center at the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi in New York City. Tonight’s film was a screening of Via Crucis Migrante, a powerful documentary by Hauken Lorenz that chronicles the stories of migrants and refugees at La72, in Tenosique, Tabasco, Mexico. Coincidentally, La72 is where Casey Cole and I spent this past summer. It was so surreal seeing the film again after having lived and worked at La72. It was an emotional experience that brought back a lot of wonderful memories but also some not so wonderful realizations.
This documentary, which was filmed in 2015, reveals the humanity and beauty of our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters, but it also still speaks to the dangers, the tragedy, and the traumas associated with the migration journey. It showed me just how much La72 has transformed in such a short amount of time. The increasing numbers of Central Americans experiencing displacement and forced migration have necessitated that La72 increase its capacity and I was amazed at the amount of construction the center has had to undergo in order to accommodate so many new people.
After the film, I was invited to share some stories from my time in Mexico. I am not exactly comfortable speaking in front of large crowds and I was very nervous tonight, but I was also very grateful to be given the opportunity to introduce the Dignity and Development Project, which I had initiated in collaboration with the team at La72 when I was in Mexico. This fund will provide the most vulnerable migrants and refugees, especially women, children, and LGBT, with personalized support, vocational training, and social activities that will help to restore dignity and promote personal and professional development during the migration experience and the long and often drawn-out asylum application processes. While important vocational skills are being taught, our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters can also experience a reintegration into society with positive, life-affirming experiences and social interactions that will help to move them beyond the traumas of migration.
I will post more information about this really important project soon, but in the mean time, please check out the Migrant Center for more information as well as how to donate to this new initiative. You can also check out the other great films being screen this week at the Migrant Center.
Here are some photos from the evening. Photos were taken by my friend Keith and yours truly.