#11 im/migrations

This issue of AREA was released on July 22, 2011 at Calles y Sueños on the near-south side of Chicago. 5,000 copies were printed.

Edited by Rozalinda Borcila and Robin Hewlett

Designed by Jérôme Grand

Contributing Editors : Demetrio Maguigad, Gabrielle Toth, Rachel Wallis, Rebecca Zorach


Inheriting the Grid

By Robin Hewlett — Over the past two years, AREA has undergone a process of reflection and organizational restructuring. At a retreat in March of 2010, AREA reassessed our mission statement and redoubled our commitment to supporting people and organizations that work for social justice in Chicago. While social justice has always undergirded the art, research, education and activist […]


By Rozalinda Borcila — In 1816, representatives of the Council of the Three Fires (the united Ottawa, Ojibwa and Potawatomi) were deceived into signing a treaty by which much of today’s northern Chicago became property of the United States. This treaty targeted a twenty-mile wide tract of land connecting the shores of Lake Michigan with the Illinois Purchase. It […]

Section I

By AREA — This section interrogates the concept of the ‘border’ and asks how borders compel or dissuade migration.

Disability’s Reverse Diaspora

By Amber Smock — I’ve lived as a person with a severe hearing loss since I was three years old. When I was growing up, I was mainstreamed in the hearing world and did not often acknowledge myself as a person with a disability. I just thought of myself as a person who was different, and I managed my […]

Militarized Borders and Broken Hearts

By Jake Olzen — The thermometer peaks over 100 degrees and it is still late morning. Men and women crossing the US-Mexico border have already been walking for six or eight hours—some without water or in need of serious medical attention. As a volunteer with the humanitarian aid group No More Deaths, I’m riding in the back of a […]

We too came as immigrants…

By Susan Klonsky — The following essay is adapted from a chapter of the forthcoming memoir, Sacred Ground: The Chicago Streets of Timuel Black, by Timuel Black with Susan Klonsky.   I was under a year old when my parents came to Chicago from Alabama on the train, bringing my 10-year-old sister Charlotte, my 4-year-old brother Walter, and me, […]

“You don’t have to go to Mississippi”

By Micah Uetricht — He sits in his Roseland studio apartment, attempting to list all the cities and states and neighborhoods and apartments and addresses he has resided in over the span of his nearly eight decades alive—and why he left. “I just wasn’t for ’em,” he offers as an explanation for leaving Mississippi in 1954 in the thick […]

Borders and Boundaries

By Hollen Reischer — The Neighborhood Writing Alliance (NWA) provokes dialogue, builds community, and promotes change by creating opportunities for adults in Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods to write, publish, and perform works about their lives. In NWA’s free, ongoing workshops, which are held at branches of the Chicago Public Library and in other community centers, participants write about their lives […]

Section II

By AREA — This section describes various kinds of interaction with "America" as a place, an idea, and an identity.


By Fereshteh Toosi — My parents arrived in the U.S. just before the 1979 revolution in their home country of Iran. Growing up during the "Iran-hostage" and "Iran-Contra" eras in the U.S., it wasn’t easy to access stories about my ancestors. But evidence of the colonization of the “new world” by white settlers was close to home and prevalent […]

Introducing: Remesas

By Allan Gomez — For immigrants, the United States has long been bound by binary definitions. At one end of the spectrum, it’s the land of empire; at the other end, the land of opportunity. The US, as empire, generates global economic conditions that force people to migrate away from their homes, while locally hollowing out human and civic […]

Creating a Critical Im/Migration Curriculum

By Lindsay Smith — The state deports 1,100 people everyday in the United States, a rate higher than under the George W. Bush Administration; in 2008 alone, 100,000 US children saw one of their parents deported. Moreover, 5.1 million children in the United States are members of mixed-status families (one or more people in the family is undocumented) and […]

Mujeres inmigrantes compartiendo sus dichos y sus mundos

By Abel Angeles —  English Introducción Janise Hurtig, Coordinator, Community Writing Project Las tres historias que siguen fueron escritos por Karina Cardenas, Rebeca Nieto, y Abel Angeles, mujeres mejicanas inmigrantes quienes han sido participantes y facilitadoras de talleres de escritura del Proyecto de Escritura Comunitaria (el CWP) que toman lugar en las escuelas de sus hijos. El CWP ofrece […]

Immigrant Women Sharing Their Words and Worlds

By Abel Angeles —  Español Introduction Janise Hurtig, Coordinator, Community Writing Project   The three stories that follow were written by Karina Cardenas, Rebeca Nieto, and Abel Angeles, Mexican immigrant women who have participated in and led writing workshops facilitated by the Community Writing Project in their children’s schools. The Community Writing Project (CWP) offers adult writing and publishing […]

Saliendo de las Sombras

By Alaa Mukahhal — English  Foto de Sarah Jane Rhee n. sol ireri unzueta carrasco, Alianza de Jóvenes Inmigrantes por la Justicia   El diez de marzo de este año nueve jóvenes sin documentos y una aliada hablaron públicamente de sus historias en frente de cientos de personas en el centro de Chicago. Hablar de no tener documentos no […]

Coming Out of the Shadows

By Alaa Mukahhal — Español Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee n. sol ireri unzueta carrasco, Immigrant Youth Justice League On March 10th, 2011 nine undocumented youth and one ally, representing organizations from across the Chicago area, came out in support of undocumented youth and told their stories in front of a crowd of hundreds. Coming out as undocumented is […]

The Only Reason

By Fereshteh Toosi — The giant red sculpture in Chicago’s Federal Plaza is a piece called Flamingo by Alexander Calder. On most days, this public square designed by Mies van der Rohe is not particularly active. But on May Day in 2006, it was filled with thousands of protestors during a pro-immigration rally, part of a national movement sparked […]

Section III

By AREA — Discussions and experiments about alternative approaches to policy, politics and discourse on immigration and migration.

An Image of our Future

By Nicholas de Genova — Nicholas De Genova in conversation with Rozalinda Borcila.  A shorter version of this text is published in the printed issue of AREA #11.   Rozalinda Borcila (RB):  In your writing, you introduce the concept of a “Mexican Chicago” as a way theorize across spatial scales and to challenge the logic of the nation-state. I think […]

Cussing Practice

By Bonnie Rateree — Harvey, Illinois is a once-prosperous south suburb that has suffered from a series of economic, environmental, and political blows over the past 40 years. Eraina Dunn and Bonnie Rateree, cousins who have lived in Harvey all their lives, have for years been active in a variety of community organizations, government, and schools there. Dunn is […]

The Great Forced Migration

By Zipporah Green — I am a proud African American woman resident of Chicago’s South Side… Throughout my 51 years, I have come to recognize the homeless and the impoverished… She often stares at me through countless black faces in the City. Many people may not admit how they turn their heads away when they are approached by someone […]

Aquí y Allá

By Victoria Welch Cervantes — English   En los EEUU así como en otros países que son centros económico-políticos imperialistas para la migración de los paises bajo su dominio, los migrantes (inmigrantes) se organizan en torno a cuestiones bi-nacionalmente. La organización de migrantes en los EEUU puede centrarse en los derechos del inmigrante, la política local o en problemas de […]

Here and There

By Victoria Welch Cervantes — Español In the US, as in other countries that are imperial political and economic centers for migration from the lands under their domination, migrants (immigrants) often organize around bi-national issues. Organizing in the US might focus on immigrant rights, local politics, or community issues. Sustained connections to organizing in the home country might include sending […]

66 Motels

By Anne Dodge — “66 Motels” raises questions about preservation, nostalgia and understandings of Americaneness along the historic Route 66, which originates in Chicago.  The project is an on-going archive of the independently owned, historic motels of Route 66, including photos, interviews and ephemera. One specific goal of this project was to understand the power of signage and the […]

Muhammad Ali, Mohammed Atta, and Me

By AREA Staff — “Can you float like a butterfly and sting like a bee?” This is what people used to ask me, a boy of five or six, when they heard my name. A child called Mohamed was still something of a rarity in Toronto of the 1970’s and 80’s. But everybody back then knew who the real […]

Section III

By AREA — Questions about how communities are formed by and through migration.

Chicago’s Polonia

By Kasia Tarczynska and Jason Schneider — Start at the intersection of Milwaukee, Ashland, and Division, or “the Polish Triangle,” where Poles set up their first community in Chicago during the 1860s and remained dominant well into the 20th century. Then go north on Milwaukee, up through Logan Square and into Avondale, or Jackowo, where many Poles lived in the 1960s, 70s, […]

Duranguense Steps Out

By AREA Staff — “Why are they wearing cowboy gear?” my friend asked as she absorbed the busy Sunday afternoon scene of Chicago’s 26th Street. “Welcome to Chicago,” I told my New York pal. Duranguense means belonging to the state of Durango, México; but it also refers to a genre of regional Mexican music. The Grammy-winning style of Duranguense […]

How Shall We Sing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land?

By AREA Staff — Imagine it is 1927 and you are a 40 year-old African-American born and raised Baptist in Chicago. One Sunday evening in June, while walking along State Street, you happen upon a storefront Holiness church service in full swing. The sound of worship can barely be contained by the building’s brick facade. Would you be embarrassed […]

At Crossroads

By Carol Ng-He — Just as Chicago was reborn from the Great Fire in 1887, so too has the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago been reborn after a fire two years ago. Next year marks the centennial of Chicago Chinatown’s move to its current location on the South Side. The Chinese-American Museum of Chicago has joined with the community to […]

Art, Culture, Memory, and History

By Oyekunle Oyegbemi — Human beings have traveled about the world in fits and starts since our ancestors began moving out of Africa thousands of years ago to explore other places. Many civilizations were created in the ebb and flow of discovery, conquest, or survival. The evidence of their existence is found in the things these socie-ties made and […]

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Would Improve All of Our Lives

By Young Sun Song — I vividly remember the song “Under the Sea” from the movie The Little Mermaid. It was my first time watching a movie in the theater. It was my sister who took me to the movie when she got her first paycheck. I’m not sure how intentional she was, but my sister also made a powerful […]

Sueños y Dolor // Dreams and Pain

By Natna Hernandez — Este vestido representa lo bonito que se ve el sueño de migrar y cómo cocemos ese sueño con dolor, esperanza, alegría y lucha.  Esta pieza está especialmente basada en la experiencia de las mujeres migrantes quienes muchas veces para alcanzar el sueño tenemos que sacrificar mucho. El vestido está hecho de materiales reciclables porque quiero […]

Section IV

By AREA — Analysis and organizing happening in Chicago’s immigrant and migrant communities.

¡Ya Basta de Explotación!

By Gloria Natalia Ortiz — English   La industria de trabajo de limpieza y cuidado del hogar en Chicago, al igual que muchas otras ciudades, emplea una gran cantidad de inmigrantes de diferentes países. Muchas de las personas empleadas son mujeres, y una gran cantidad son indocumentadas. Sin embargo, la perspectiva de estas trabajadoras no es frecuentemente presentada en publicaciones […]

No More Exploitation!

By Gloria Natalia Ortiz — Español   The housekeeping industry in Chicago, as well as many other cities, employs many immigrant workers from different countries. Many of these workers are women, and a substantial number are undocumented. The perspective of these workers is rarely presented in mainstream media publications. My initial interest in this issue arose a few years ago […]

The Little Village Project 2010

By Jose Omar Ortiz — From a young age I was interested in politics. But I did not become an active participant until college, when I was inspired by a classmate at Northeastern Illinois University. She was an undocumented student who advocated for social issues and immigrant rights. She organized events to educate people about the Dream Act, and encouraged […]

People’s Trial of Boeing

By AREA Staff — In June 2010, a group of undocumented youth and other organizers came together around a shared desire to open an alternative political space within the immigrant rights movement. We shared a sense that the political horizon of the movement felt constricted, and that liberal organizing models felt unwelcoming and shortsighted. Working together throughout fall and […]

Juicio del Pueblo de Boeing

By AREA Staff — En junio del 2010 un grupo de jóvenes indocumentados y otros organizadores se reunió con el deseo de crear un espacio político alternativo dentro del movimiento pro-inmigrante. Los de este grupo compartíamos la opinión que la visión política del movimiento era estrecha, que los modelos liberales de organización tenían una visión corta del futuro. Trabajando […]

5 Questions for Immigrants Who Organize

By Allie Kaba — For issue #11, AREA has undertaken a series of interviews. We are asking five questions to immigrants who do political organizing work in Chicago: –        What is your personal experience of immigration? –        What kind of work do you do in Chicago? –        How has your experience as an immigrant influenced the […]

2006, Divided We March

By AREA Staff — The recent years of the immigration movement have been related to marching. After the incredible success in doing something not really usual in the United States, marching in big numbers on March 10th, 2006, it appears to many that the size of the marches would determine the success of the movement.   Media outlets are […]

“Drive By”

By Iccha Devi Ra — The following is a heavily excerpted version of a conversation held on the evening of April 19, 2011, at the Quaker House at 5615 S. Woodlawn Ave in Hyde Park. The purpose of the meeting was to brainstorm possible ways of creating a platform for former CHA residents displaced by the Plan for Transformation to […]

Migrating Artbumps and Visionary Corkscrews

By Karen Roothaan — I am a daughter of Hyde Park, born in 1953. My migration started with graduate school in Rhode Island and morphed into a New England adventure including time on an organic goat farm, life in a cabin in the woods by myself, and miles of hitchhiking. When I tell people about my thumb-fueled adventures they […]

No More Band Aid Immigration Reform Proposals

By Dale Asis — In 2007, on a yearlong fellowship from the Chicago Community Trust, I traveled to my mother’s native village in Bicol, Philippines, where I was confronted by the poverty of my own distant relatives. Many of them literally wanted to travel inside my luggage and join me back in Chicago. I visited my cousin, Romy. He […]

Brewing Justice at Café Chicago

By Kari Lydersen — Waiting long hours on street corners for jobs, often in freezing weather, Chicago day laborers drink a lot of coffee. Now they will also be roasting and selling it. And rather than the watered-down McDonald’s or Aldi’s coffee they often drink, it will be organic fair trade coffee sold at sliding scale prices to make […]

A Kind of Haven

By Gretchen Hasse — This video series interviews people from a range of Chicago immigrant communities. Gretchen Hasse and Jen Blair have a sharp critique of immigration policy, the way immigrants are depicted in media, and of the racism and xenophobia that is so easily engaged in order to get people acting against their own social and economic interests. […]

I am a Fan

By Chiara Galimberti — This project reflects my own experience as an immigrant to the US and more recently to Chicago, and speaks to issues of assimilation, passing, and otherness. I noticed that in Chicago, immigrants frequently wear sports team paraphernalia as a marker of belonging and “Americaneness”. The shirts in the piece are embroidered with quotes from recent […]