by Jay Thorwaldson
As immigration roils national politics — from the White House to Congress and the Supreme Court, to states across the nation and even the presidential campaign — the stories of six “undocumented” young people from the Palo Alto area will add personal depth and poignancy to the issue.
The stories will be told at a “Walk of DREAMers” free event 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29, in the El Palo Alto Room of the Mitchell Park Community Center, 3700 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto.
The event is sponsored by the Midpeninsula Community Media Center and the Palo Alto Library. It is part of a broader program funded by a $10,000 “Community Stories” grant from California Humanities, a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities (www.calhum.org). The grant also will cover a similar evening in partnership with the Redwood City Library on Tuesday, Sept. 21.
Elliot Margolies, who organizes “strategic initiatives” for the Media Center, said the June 29 event is a follow-up to earlier, smaller-scale story-sharing sessions held locally under a “Made Into America” theme.
The archive project, celebrating immigrant stories from every era of the United States’ history, was launched by the Media Center in May 2014 and receives more than 5,000 visits per month, Margolies said.
A special-guest moderator for June 29 will be Francisco Jimenez, an award-winning author and humanities professor at Santa Clara University. He was born in Tlaquepaque, Mexico, in 1943 and spent much of his childhood working with his parents in California fields, with no permanent home or regular schooling. Yet he graduated from Santa Clara University, attended Harvard University and received both a master’s degree and a doctorate from Columbia University. He became chairman of the Modern Languages and Literatures Department at Santa Clara University, as well as director of the Division of Arts and Humanities there.
“He would have been a DREAMer if they had had the term back in the 1940s,” Margolies said.
Jimenez’s books include the award-winning “The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child,” and a sequel, “Breaking Through.” An illustrated book, “The Christmas Gift/El regalo de Navidad,” explores sources of humanity and strength that can exist even in the face of poverty, according to its description in Jimenez’s biography.
The June 29 presentations themselves will be “emotion-filled experiences threaded by hope, perseverance, fear, secrets, and dreams for their families and themselves,” according a Media Center announcement. One speaker “will take us to the strawberry fields where he worked as a 10-year-old. Another will bring us on a flight to reunite with his mom for the first time since his infancy.
“One ventures far from anything familiar and finds a welcoming home during her college years in tiny Ripon, Wisconsin.”