Boston, MA to Toledo, OH — We’re off! After an informal and intimate send-off event at Emerson College yesterday, we packed our bags, stocked up on granola bars, and started driving early this morning.
We’ve driven alongside rivers glazed with a dawn mist and passed through nascent fall foliage, verdant leaves mixed with cornucopias of autumnal color. Accompanied by Journey, Juanes, and just a bit of NPR’s Alt.Latino, we’ve made it through Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania, and recently crossed the border into Ohio.
Now, as we skirt Lake Erie, surrounded by cornfields and apple orchards bathed in the golden streaks of the evening sun, we couldn’t be more excited to continue forging ahead. We feel so fortunate to be able to drive these stories of our shared humanity coast-to-coast, and we’re still seeking additional funds. Donating is quick and easy, and gives you an inside look into the Caravan, through daily video updates sent right to your inbox. Thank you to all our donors to date!
Six hundred miles in, with the freeway still boundless before us, we’re just getting started.
The Proyecto Carrito Caravan is a group of janitors driving their stories of immigration from Boston to San Diego. For more information about the Caravan, please contact Ryan Catalani at firstname.lastname@example.org. A press kit, including a fact sheet and full-resolution images, is available to download.
This event, sponsored by MassPartners of the Americas, celebrates using “the arts as a vehicle for understanding, engaging and influencing the future of the Americas”—closely aligned with how our own Proyecto Carrito Caravan uses a vehicle literally wrapped in stories.
Right now, it’s too easy to talk about immigration, not immigrants. With the Caravan, we want to help people from diverse backgrounds recognize how much they have in common. Arts 4 Social and Civic Engagement seeks to “host conversations about art and social issues,” and we are honored and excited to be part of those discussions.
Our presentation at Arts 4 Social and Civic Engagement will be on Thursday, October 6, from 9 am to noon. It will be at the Arsenal Project Innovation Space, 485 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA 02472.
“I love the project, it’s an excellent idea. Many of us are immigrants and we do have dreams, and we fight for them, leaving behind our roots. Thank you.”
— YMCA student
Mobility Movilidad artist-in-residence Maria Cecilia Cardona and directors Tamera Marko and Ryan Catalani joined English-language classes at the YMCA of Greater Boston’s International Learning Center on February 17, 2016 to talk about Proyecto Carrito, a collective of immigrant janitors, students, professors, and administrators at Emerson College who write together to cross physical, social, emotional, and institutional borders.
They discussed how, in the words of Mario Ernesto Osorio, one of the Proyecto Carrito members and maintenance worker at Emerson, “we need to recover the humanity that, for the moment, we have lost,” by making our schools and other institutions more inclusive for all their community members, including immigrant workers.
The Proyecto Carrito collective does so in the spirit of convivencia—or learning to live and work together, despite cultural and language differences—by not just meeting as a weekly class, but also building trust and sharing time as a family over the last five years.
Ceci, a Colombian artist who participated in Mobility Movilidad’s 2011 exhibition of Through Our Eyes, also showed a video that she produced with the immigrant maintenance workers last year. They talked about where they have loved life—and found that those places were their homes and roots in Latin America.
Students in the YMCA classes, whose native languages include Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, and Russian, wrote notes to the maintenance workers responding to their stories.
Many of the students said they identified with the workers’ stories, and shared their own deeply personal stories, like having to leave their kids and families in their home countries and immigrate to the US to support them economically.
Others wrote that hearing about Proyecto Carrito made them feel supported, because the project recognizes that immigrants do have dreams and fight for them, despite leaving behind their roots, and congratulated the group for trying to make it possible to live with love and peace.
Thanks to the YMCA of Greater Boston and Sara Bilman, the YMCA’s DESE Program Manager and Educational and Career Advisor.
Mobility Movilidad directors Tamera Marko and Ryan Catalani joined the Florida Caribe Show—a program on the community radio station WSLR in Sarasota, Florida—on Feb 24, 2016 to talk about Proyecto Carrito, a collective of immigrant janitors, students, professors, and administrators at Emerson College who write together to cross physical, social, emotional, and institutional borders. The interview also featured clips from Proyecto Carrito members Mario Ernesto Osorio, Maria Portillo, and Ramiro Soto, who are immigrant janitors at Emerson.
They discussed how the weekly translingual classes began and how those led to publishing texts by wrapping them on a car; the upcoming Proyecto Carrito Caravan, an immigrant-led movement for a more inclusive education system, launching this summer; and how schools and other institutions can be more inclusive toward all their community members. The interview starts at the 30 minute mark in the clip above.
The immigrant janitors who co-founded Proyecto Carrito were working during the show, so last week, they recorded themselves responding to a question that the hosts of the show, Paola Baez and Gerina Gjergji, sent in advance: What would you do to change the world? Those responses were played at the end of the show, starting at the 53 minute mark in the clip above.
Here’s what the workers said:
“Personally, I believe that for us—who, as immigrants in the US, interact daily with people from different nationalities and cultures—I would start by trying to understand each of these cultures and take what’s good from them, leaving behind the negative, and trying to adapt it to our own. That way we can try to understand each other better, and we would form true human connections, despite our differences, between all people. We would try to help one another, and little by little, I believe we would start to change the world.”
— Mario Ernesto Osorio
“To change the world, in the first place, we have to change personally, because it’s through changing ourselves that we change the world. We must end wars, eliminate discrimination because of nationality, skin color, sexuality—there can’t be discrimination for any reason. We must seek God, take care of planet Earth, take care of nature, look out for the poor, be generous with our heart, and give our time without expecting to receive anything in return.”
— Maria Portillo and Maria Guerra
“We think we need to believe that every culture is valuable and has knowledge to share with the world. We need equality and respect for human rights—for example, education, shelter, food—for everyone. We need to accept each person as they are and take care of the environment.”
— Ramiro Soto and Maria Cecilia Cardona
Ramiro also talked about what the class means to him and the other workers:
“In this class, we have people from Peru, Hawaii, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, California, Indonesia, China, Puerto Rico, the Philippines—that’s Proyecto Carrito. We enjoy the cultures we each bring. I think if you don’t come to the class, you don’t get through the week. It’s something that you need, to be here. It’s a time that we look forward to since Monday. (The class meets every Wednesday.) We feel good. It’s a place where you feel accepted and share with everyone else. Outside, we’re not accepted, and here in the class, everyone is equal. We all learn and we all teach.”
Sunday, April 26, 2015 at 1 p.m.
Multipurpose Room at Emerson College
150 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116
In a weekly class of immigrant maintenance workers, faculty, and undergraduate students, we seek to write our way across the borders in all of our lives—physical, social, and institutional. We bring people to the table who usually wouldn’t be able to come—the storytellers who have the most to teach us, but often the least access to do so. We listen to each other’s stories. And we write about, and publish, our evolving identities and dreams for more humane and just immigration and education systems for the 21st century.
This devised piece emerged from, and was inspired by, this class’s five years—and hundreds of hours—of storytelling. To develop this production, four students from the class met three times a week throughout the semester, collaborating individually with each of the maintenance workers, other undergraduates, and faculty members. It will be in English and Spanish. Now we hope to share some of their stories, and the spirit of this class, with you.
Culture Clash’s Muse & Morrosfeatured excerpts from Mario Osorio’s speech from Proyecto Carrito, which Ric Salinas, in character as a Salvadorian immigrant, read aloud, as the video of Mario’s reading was projected over the U.S. flag. Mario said, in part:
We need to recover our humanity that for the moment we have lost. … We have the power to change the world, our country, our cities, our neighborhoods. But first, we need to change our minds.