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Reflections on the Transnational Encounter of Migrant Youth

Updated: Apr 6, 2020

Como esta tu corazón? Immersion – IV Encuentro Transnacional de Juventud Migrante

“Queremos ser tratados como sujeitos de derecho, no como objetos de políticas assistencialistas.”

~ Niñez y Juventud Indígena en las Migraciones, Pronunciamiento 2018, Encuentro Juvenil, MUMI

“We want to be treated as subjects of rights, not objects of assistentialist politics.”

~ Indigenous Childhood and Youth in Migration, Declaration 2018, Youth Meeting, MUMI

In what ways do we prepare the body-mind-spirit to think, act, and create?

What conditions us to incorporate ideas and ways of thinking, doing, and living aligned with our commitments and (re)orientation?

How do we assume response-ability over our ways of being in the world?

These questions reverberated in the large, open, colourful hall and garden where the Encuentro made home for the week of 2-6 of December, in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, where the Mexican team – Deya, Aldo, Pável, and all of the collaborators of Voces Mesoamericanas – generously welcomed and made possible my presence in an experience that collectively broadened horizons for political thought and action.

To begin with, how to get to know each other, and each other´s struggles and visions of another world possible?

We put our organizations on the map. We sought out amongst ourselves those who responded to experiences and interests surveyed on our guest card, to be autographed in full by the end of our first session. We divided into teams and always began with some body-based exercise, to make sure that each and every one of us is in our bodies, prior to opening up the reflection and dialogue posed for the day.

Try to pass the hula-hoop around a circle where if someone lets go of someone else´s hand we have to start over. Or to pass a balloon without the aid of hands and the usual means of communication. Try.

What does it mean for your body to be disposed to work together? How does this affect what we think, produce, construct, and so forth?

As one youth participant put it – in resuming the reflection on resistance movements in Nuestra América – in the context of centuries of colonial forces, genocidal politics, and the nationalist drive toward homogenization, what would it look like to resist as from a place of diversity (“un solo corazón”), rather than as from a place of ideology? What criteria do we use to measure justice, asked another, when the state itself is coopted and does not offer viable references?

When it came to putting the question of identity on the table, or more precisely, on the ground, processes of identification and disidentification were played out – images put on the ground, and bodies migrating to and from what these representations evoke. Images that spanned from popular culture references, to political figures, to symbols of power and resistance. Later reflected, identity had much more to do with, in the words of the youth: experiences, knowledges, histories, beliefs, memories, reflections, families, friends, ancestors, our inspirations. Always in flux, subject of (re)creation. And why put this conversation on the ground, so to speak? To talk about political positioning. In turn, scenarios were played out, and we would go to one of three places of how to respond, and would be called upon to speak to our decisions, stemming from, of course, our inspirations and complex (dis)identifications. Disagreements were means to broaden our perspectives.

Violence is not a simple topic to open up for conversation. After bodily warm-ups, (re)connecting with ourselves and others, a necessary moment in silence. On our own. To inscribe and reinscribe ourselves. To create a book, where the cover responds to, in drawing, who we are. In the middle folded piece, violences we experience as targets. And on the back cover, violences we (re)produce. All in drawing, without the shortcut of words. Later we formed libraries and perused the varied editions and dialogued with their authors.

To work the structural dimensions, beyond (in)visibilization, the key question raised had to do with (re)cognition – in the hopes of working against the cognitive dissonance that impedes that we assume response-ability for our ways of living together.

In the field of gendered violences, mapping bodies and writing in the curves what cuts in and through them opened up yet another minefield to traverse. Beginning, of course, another difficult conversation, (re)connected.

And what to do with all of this?

At this point, midway through the week, we began to look to education and labour as means of (re)producing conditions of living in community. First, we identified what bothers and worries us. With post-it notes mapped in each interconnected spheres of institutionalized domain, we were invited to imagine and create the school and work of our dreams. Materials laid out on the ground, from fabrics and ribbons to buttons and closepins, each group mounted and later presented and discussed the new parameters to think education and labour, and were challenged to begin to integrate their diverse elements, and think about viability.

Both, as is, stifle the seeds of liberty. This pronouncement called upon a reworking of their foundational hierarchies as key to cultivating other possibilities. Understanding that the work of reconstruction is long and far from linear projections, a commitment to take up elements of the dreamed of schools and work was reinforced, broadening the very sense of education and labour, beyond its institutional and remunerated forms.

To close off the first three days of dialogue and reflection: migration. The flag that waves across boundaries – material, political, and symbolic. What brought the group of fifty youth together. A reflex of the negation of rights, inherited from the modern colonial nationalist capitalist project, which protects private property and subjects who are given propertyship over themselves above the multiple dimensions of a full and dignified life. How to deal with the fact that justice, equality, freedom, all of these contours of our political imagination, were forged within the statist frame, inheritances of a colonial project of power, knowledge, and being? What happens when we face the impossibility of reparation, as one youth participant put it, and can only work toward justice in the future tense?

Possible responses resurfaced in the calls to defend one´s territories and communities, (re)construct memory to fight for ways of inhabiting this world that respect the dignity of one and all, on one´s own terms. And here, we went to MUMI. In the gardens.

Where the meaning of museum is given relevance, and comes to life with participants narrating their own stories of migration – at each station, from origin, transit, destinations, and return. A cycle of movements that cuts across our possibilities of inhabiting this world, our world, Abya Yala without borders.

Memory is the basis of political discernment, and intelligence in all of its manifestations. So in the final two days of the Encuentro, we sought to (re)narrate our pasts, presents, and futures, in and through artistic languages that push the boundaries of our thinking and political imagination. Graffiti, hip hop, cinema, and theatre – in excess of the categories that they are so often put into as art forms – became means to communicate the reflections and dialogues lived over the course of the week, and deepen the pathways experimented in the search for vocabularies not yet registered to tell stories still to come.

Andréa Gill, San Cristobal de Las Casas, 06 December 2019

This writing reflects my experience of the IV Encuentro Transnacional de Juventud Migrante (IV Transnational Encounter of Migrant Youth), see references below for more information and contextualization. It reflects my interlocution with all present in this encounter where references were collectively remade to imagine another world possible, and brought together by my gratitude to the Mexican team for reascending the pleasure of learning and the possibilities of breath and movement in our otherwise heavy and demanding work. And so, here I put forward for renewal their invitation at our first GG meeting, to permanently ask ourselves and others: como esta tu corazón?

For more about the Transnational Encounter of Migrant Youth, check out the pronouncement and videos of the meetings here!

Written by Andréa Gill (


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