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UW-Eau Claire to Host Student Symposium
on 'Mexico, Migration and Wisconsin'

RELEASED: Dec. 3, 2007

students with Mexican host family
UW-Eau Claire Spanish majors Daniel Drung (standing), Rachel Meneghini (left) and Gina Livingston (right) posed with members of their host family during their stay in rural Veracruz, Mexico, where they and other students in a UW-Eau Claire geography capstone class interviewed family and friends of migrants to western Wisconsin. (Contributed photo)

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will hold a student research symposium, "Mexico, Migration and Wisconsin," from 3-8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, in Phillips Science Hall and the Davies Theatre in Davies Center.

Nathan Wolf Lustbader, the Mexican consul in St. Paul, Minn., will give the keynote address for the event, which is free and open to the public, at 6 p.m. in Davies Theatre. This marks the first time the Mexican consul will visit Eau Claire.

The symposium is based on field research conducted by 13 students in a geography capstone class taught by Dr. Paul Kaldjian, associate professor of geography, and run in cooperation with the university's Spanish and Latin American studies programs. Kaldjian said the goals of the course are to inform migration discussions in Wisconsin, educate the public, help make this region more welcoming to migrant workers and assist local communities in both Wisconsin and Veracruz, Mexico.

This fall, students in the class interviewed Mexican workers, their employers and community members in western Wisconsin. Buffalo and Trempealeau counties were the main study area for the students, and they concentrated primarily on the connection between Mexican immigrants and the agricultural/dairy farming sector.

From Oct. 19-27, the students traveled with Kaldjian and Shaun Duvall, director of Puentes/Bridges Inc., to rural Veracruz, where they stayed with and interviewed family and former neighbors and fellow community members of the migrants to Wisconsin. Course participants stayed in the regional center of Orizaba and with families in the villages of Tlaquilpa and Astacinga.

At the symposium, the student researchers will give two concurrent sessions of 20-minute presentations on their research from 3:10-5:30 p.m. in rooms 104 and 119 of Phillips Science Hall. One session will be in Spanish.

In conjunction with the student presentations, there will be exhibits and demonstrations, including one on how to make tamales. Samples and foods will be available. To promote community building, the class has invited local organizations and businesses with strong Mexican ties to set up table displays in Phillips Hall to promote their services and educate people about the Mexican/Latino population and culture in this area. Invited organizations range from community nonprofits that work on domestic violence and public health to area Mexican food providers.

Lustbader's keynote address will follow the student presentations and exhibits. In conjunction with his talk, the North Central Council of Latin Americanists will present its 2007 Award of Merit to Puentes/Bridges, a local nonprofit organization that works to build understanding and relationships between the communities of western Wisconsin and its new, Spanish-speaking migrants. A reception and refreshments will follow from 7-7:30 p.m. in the Skylight Lounge outside Davies Theatre.

The evening will conclude with a 7:30 p.m. showing of the documentary film "El Contrato" ("The Contract") in Davies Theatre. The 2003 film by director Min Sook Lee follows Teodoro Bello Martinez, a father of four living in central Mexico, and several of his countrymen as they make an annual migration to southern Ontario to pick tomatoes for conditions and wages no local will accept. "El Contrato" was awarded the Best Documentary Award at the 2003 Ibero American Film Festival. The topic of the film is timely, Kaldjian said, as many in the United States often point to Canadian social programs as potential models and as the United States discusses the place of formal guest worker programs within overall migration policies. The film is 51 minutes long and in Spanish and English with English subtitles.

The symposium is sponsored by UW-Eau Claire's department of geography and anthropology and Latin American studies and Spanish language programs. For more information, contact Kaldjian at 715-836-2321 or Kaldjian@uwec.edu. An informational poster is available online with a complete schedule.

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NC/NW

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