Washington – The Hispanic heritage is often linked with the U.S. southwestern border states, but a new mobile museum highlights the origins of another wave of immigrants who arrived in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century with the industrial revolution and left its mark in northern cities like Detroit.
The Museo del Norte (Museum of the North) wants to be "a museum that's different from those that are in Alburquerque, New Mexico, or Texas. It's a museum that tells the story of those who left for the (U.S.) North from the Caribbean or South America, but also from (elsewhere) within the United States, because it's a special story," Maria Cotera, the guiding force behind the project, told Efe.
Cotera, an associate professor who heads the Latina/o Studies Program in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts at the University of Michigan, wants to capture that other story.
"The history of immigration to work in industry is very particular, it's immigration within the United States in many cases," which she says was very painful for many Mexicans who, after the Great Depression, "were deported to Mexico (although they were) U.S. citizens, and that is not known."
"This is not a story of colonization and imperialism, like happened in the southern region. It's a story that's particularly about immigration, because these people did not make themselves Americans through imperialism, but through globalization, through the industrial revolution."
Born in Austin, Texas, to Mexican parents who emigrated in the 1960s to the United States to study, Cotera said that the immigrants of the north "feel that they are not included and not to include them does not represent reality."
Cotera goes every year with her students to the Mexican neighborhood of Southwest Detroit to get closer to the reality of the subject that they are studying.
There, she met activist Helena Herrada, with whom she warned about the "lack of understanding" of the migration phenomenon in this area, both among Americans as well as among the new immigrants.
"The recently arrived Mexicans didn't understand the history of the immigrants from Michigan," Cotera said. "In many cases, the long-term Mexicans could not speak Spanish. They understand it but cannot speak it."
She said that in Detroit the Mexican community had always harbored the desire to have a museum and in 2005 a project was presented but it was unable to move forward due to budgetary constraints.
But now they are planning to create a mobile facility in which they will display letters, photographs and other items that they hope to bring to different parts of the state with concentrations of Latinos.
But the museum will also be a "living" one, since it will have a scanner so that people who come to it and want to can share their family photos and documents to help add their part to the story.