The Office of Intercultural Affairs will welcome human rights activist Padre Alejandro Solalinde Guerra to campus on Tuesday, Feb. 14. Solalinde, who is also the founder of the Hermanos en el Camino migrant shelter in Oaxaca, Mexico, will give a talk on “Following the Path of the Poor: The Struggle to Protect Central American Migrants,” at 4:30 p.m. in the Wasey Lounge on the second floor of Scandling Campus Center.
Solalinde describes himself as an unconventional priest. “I am not a very religious man,” he says. “I am a man of faith.” He arrived in Oaxaca 30 years ago and chose to stay in Ixtepec, one of the poorest towns in the state. Since 2007, he has taken charge of the Catholic Pastoral Care Centre for Migrants in Ixtepec, also known as Hermanos en el Camino, which is part of a system of more than 50 shelters and food kitchens that have emerged along the unauthorized migratory route to the United States.
In addition to food, the shelter provides protection from danger, hygienic facilities, and medical care and legal support to victims of crimes. It is a place to find spiritual support and to leave behind important information for family members in the event that migrants disappear during their journey.
The shelter has become a frontline in the fight against increasingly organized and brutal attacks on undocumented Central American migrants in transit through Mexico. The National Human Rights committee of Mexico estimates that more than 11,000 migrants were kidnapped in Mexico in a six month period in 2010. “Someday, the U.S., and hopefully Mexico too, will build you a monument. Because you are heroes of a new history,” Solalinde once told a group of migrants taking shelter at Hermanos en el Camino.
Hermanos en el Camino has also staged numerous protests and has launched Solalinde into the national political fight against human rights abuses in Mexico. Advocating for migrants, Solalinde has learned, can be dangerous work. He has become persona non-grata to Mexican government officials, immigrant smugglers, drug lords and even residents of the small towns where the shelters operate.
His campaign in defense of migrants has riled so many, in fact, that for the past two years Mexican authorities have assigned four agents to serve as his bodyguards, two of whom accompany him as he crisscrosses the country, while two remain behind to guard the migrant center. Because of his activism, Solalinde has received numerous death threats and was spotlighted in the Amnesty International Urgent Action List.
Despite the danger, he continues his work without fear. “I am reflecting on the meaning of migration: it is the path of the poor,” says Solalinde. “I am convinced that they are changing the world with their presence – of whatever culture, politics, religion, or gender, they are constructing a common denominator of humanity.”
This event is free and open to the community.