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Migrant Storytelling in Guelph

Web posted on February 21, 2014

by Emily Blake

On Wednesday, February 5 Fuerza-Puwersa Guelph hosted "Love and Struggle: Storytelling Migrant Experiences" an event featuring Raul Gatica. Raul is a well-known human rights activist and indigenous organizer from Oaxaca, Mexico, and was involved in the union movement that resulted in the 2006 Oaxaca revolts. He now works with migrant farm workers in Vancouver and is an accomplished writer.

It was an intimate evening as attendees sat in a circle and listened intently while Raul spoke. Raul is a talented and passionate storyteller who is committed to telling the stories of migration experiences in Canada. He emphasized the importance of humanizing migration stories rather than relying on reports and statistics. He has also published two books; The Invisible and Disposables, and Shoes on the Rocks/Zapatos En Las Piedras.

Raul spoke of his experience growing up in Oaxaca, Mexico and how his involvement in human rights activism began. He explained the traditional practices of organization, decision-making and authority in his community, which he has fought to maintain. When he was younger he helped his mother in her role as secretary, and eventually went on to be elected to almost all the highest possible positions in his community.

Indigenous communities account for 70% of the population in Oaxaca and have struggled with repression and human rights violations from the government for many years. Raul became active in fighting for social justice when he was involved in the struggle to recover indigenous land. He continued to help other areas recover their land as his success and expertise in this area grew.

The struggle was not without its challenges as Raul spoke about the violence that he and his friends faced. He also discussed how it was difficult to work with other individuals due to the distrust the government created. He was imprisoned 13 times without ever being charged, has watched friends die and has been the target of death threats and assassination attempts. However, he has a maintained his non-violent stance and continues to advocate for human rights in Canada.

Raul concluded the evening by discussing tools and strategies when fighting for social justice and was eager to hear the experiences of the group. He stated that everyday actions are important in activism as they can be easily evaluated and focusing on large issues can obscure smaller ones. He also noted the importance of imagination, sharing stories of using snakes, animal manure, livestock and even garbage as effective social justice tools. He also said, "My biggest tool is to smile, love people, have hope."

Raul Gatica is a truly remarkable individual whose experience is an inspiring example that everyone is capable of impacting positive change in their community. It is wonderful that he was able to share his experience in the Guelph community and express the power of storytelling. Most importantly Raul stated, "We don't have to fight against something. We have to fight for something."

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