For the last five years, San Diego City College has hosted the Binational Conference on Border Issues. One day of lectures are held at the college in downtown San Diego, another day of lectures are held at Tijuana’s downtown CECUT Cultural Center.
This year the theme was: Activism and Academia: Perspectives and Challenges
Topics this year included: Maquiladoras and Labor, Migration, Transborder Communities, Original Peoples, Sex Workers and Human Rights at the Border, Refugee Children & Prison Expansion, and more. There was also an art exhibit titled: A Maquiladora Worker Dreams
The conference is key to understanding the South Bay and our border communities today. What’s more, the professors and students at City College are engaged in some of the most seminal research regarding Chicano studies and U.S.-Mexican relations anywhere in the country.
This is a conference open to the public that allows engaged and interested communities to come together and let their voices be heard. It also opens up new opportunities for collaboration and binational work.
Here are some of the highlights:
The new president of San Diego City College, Dr. Anthony Beebe said: “The actual physical border with the gates and the guards and all of that complex down there is certainly intimidating and frightening frankly. The fortress that we have built between the two countries is amazing, but what I have been focusing on myself are the psychological aspects of the border and how those psychological aspects of the border are actually more formidable than any physical barrier we might have between the two countries.”
Keynote Speaker: Francisco Lopez Barcenas explained that the Mexican environment is not being taken care of in that 30% of land is dedicated to industry, while less than 2% is devoted to parks and ecological preservation. A different world, however, is possible. More proposals need to get away from an emphasis on profit and begin to think in terms of helping others to increase their quality of life.
Roxana Rodriguez from Universidad Autonoma de la Ciudad de Mexico explained that border walls tend to be placed between countries where the language and religion differ, which may explain why there is no significant border fence between Mexico and Guatemala. In the U.S.-Mexico case, interestingly, while the United States tends to focus on the word multicultural, in Mexico the amalgamation of peoples tends to be described variously as intercultural, pluricultural, multicultural and cosmopolitan.
Dan Watman presented how cross border activity can lead to a non-militarized border. He has created a binational garden and has held yoga classes at Friendship Park. His presentation also explained that prior to the construction of the 2008 double fence, 6-12 people died annually trying to cross the border. Since 2008, approximately 300 to 4– people have died annually trying to cross the border, with 7,500 confirmed deaths at the U.S.-Mexican border since implementation.
Other speakers including the conference organizer, Professor Enrique Davalos, Anibal Mendez from the Environmental Health Coalition, Miguel Angel Ramirez on Han Young and Victor Clark-Alfaro from the Binational Center for the Development of Oaxacan Indigenous Communities.
Pictures of CECUT, Tijuana: