The Corner Project of Malinalco: Archive news 2009-2010

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Malinalco's master artisans teach our migrants' children

The past year has seen the Corner Project grow in every dimension: expanded programs for our migrants' children; growing participation by Malinalco's artisans in teaching the children and developing beautiful new hand-crafted products for sale; with an office staff drawn from Malinalco's campesino community managing projects and providing crisis support to migrants’ families. Our team helped local families find missing migrant relatives, restored communications when migrants were imprisoned in situations that made it impossible for them to call home, and even helped free migrants unjustly held in U.S. prisons and reunite them with their families.

As the U.S. crackdown against undocumented migrants stepped up often arbitrary detentions, with increasingly severe effects on migrants’ families and children, the Corner Project’s team has had the gratifying experience of being in the right place at the right time to help. Meanwhile, as requests have come in from other parts of Mexico to share our approaches to helping migrants' families, we've seen our experience in Malinalco begin to benefit people in other places.

 

In September Corner Project founder Ellen Calmus was invited to Tapachula, Chiapas, to lead a national workshop for diocesan groups working in migrants' home communities. And in October Mexico's First Lady presented Ellen with the country's first gold Quetzalcoatl medal in recognition of her work helping Mexico's migrants and their families.

 

Several members of the Corner Project team have contributed to sharing our experiences with others working to help Mexican migrants and their families. Assistant coordinator Maribel Sánchez wrote a moving article for the spring issue of Huellas, a quarterly published by the Mexican Episcopal conference's office on migration, about her experience as a member of Malinalco's campesino community in taking on the administration of our increasingly busy office and helping families like hers whose migrant relatives have been lost or killed in the U.S. And our editorial coordinator Laura Pérez published a beautiful piece in the Huellas fall issue about what has become a yearly tradition in our parish of constructing a Day of the Dead altar in memory of migrants from this community who have died in the U.S.


Corner Project founder Ellen Calmus
received Mexico's gold Quetzalcoatl
for her work with migrants' families

 

Albertina Rosales, the widow of a Malinalco migrant killed by a drunk driver in California, was also honored for her work with the Corner Project. For the past year Albertina has supported her two young sons with the beautiful hand-stitched bags produced through the Corner Project's new women's sewing project she helped create, and during Malinalco's 2008 Mothers' Day celebration, in honor of the special role played by the mothers of migrants' families throughout our municipality, Malinalco's mayor presented Albertina with a special recognition of her inspiring example.

 

When Señora Florencia came to us for help locating her son Mario eight months after his weekly calls home from Georgia stopped, at first the task seemed hopeless: the Mexican consulate in Atlanta had no record of him on their lists of Mexican citizens in prisons. Then suggestions from community members along with a tip from an assistant District Attorney helped us discover that he was being held under a surname so badly misspelled as to be unrecognizable, and put us in touch with his public defense attorney.

 

Mario's defense attorney said that though she was convinced he was innocent of the charges against him, the racism and anti-migrant feelings in that area were such that she felt he had little chance of being found innocent by a local jury. But even with the help of a translator she’d been unable to explain the concept of plea-bargaining to Mario, and why she felt this would be his best chance of finding justice. The local judge was receptive to the suggestion that being from a remote historically Aztec community meant that, more than a Spanish interpreter, Mario needed a cultural translator.

 

A speaker phone was set up in his prison so we could provide translation via our internet telephone of the defense attorney's explanation of how plea-bargaining works and why she believed it was Mario's best chance. Once he understood, Mario was glad to work on this with his attorney, and a few days later she contacted us to say that he had been freed and would soon be returning to Malinalco. The day after his safe arrival in Malinalco Mario came to our office with his mother and little brother to present us with a bunch of roses in thanks.

 

But our most exciting news continues to come from the migrants’ children participating in our summer and Saturday programs. In addition to classes designed to help them with academic subjects and games to develop their social skills, they learn woodcarving from Malinalco’s prize-winning artisans, a skill passed down from this region’s Aztec forbears.


Albertina Rosales receives
a Mothers' Day award
from Malinalco's mayor


Mario Tetatzin brings roses
in thanks for his safe return home

The lovely medallions they carve with designs from local scenery and the Aztec motifs traditional to this historic region are made into keychains that the children can then sell to the Corner Project, using their earnings to buy things like new clothes or the tennis shoes they need to participate in local sports teams, which can make all the difference to children growing up without their parents.

programa verano

The progress we've been able to make helping Malinalco face the challenges of these changing times has been possible thanks to support from several small foundations, along with a series of wonderful donations from friends, some who've followed our work from its beginnings, others who've learned about us from friends, in publications or on the internet. Recently we've received some particularly inspiring donations from: an American living in Mexico whose on-line donation was followed by his involving a group of American friends living in Saltillo in producing a much-needed bilingual flier about our products, which they are now using to help sell our items in Saltillo; the congregation of a church in the Georgia parish where some of our migrants are currently living; a young woman born in Malinalco whose parents migrated with her to California when she was just a few months old, now a college graduate working for an educational nonprofit.

Our thanks to all the friends of the Corner Project whose encouragement and kind donations have given us the practical help we need to continue our work, while providing the most eloquent evidence to our team and the very talented artisans and children of Malinalco that friends far from our remote mountain valley care about the people of this lovely but underdeveloped place and support our efforts to work with them to build the better future this region deserves.


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