If you’ve been following my instagram account, you probably already noticed I’ve visited a lot of places in Staten Island. More specifically, Port Richmond, which is a neighborhood notorious for being highly populated by people of Mexican descent. Figuring out why this is so, proved to be more of a challenge then I expected.
Instead of the usual statistics and basic information on immigration in that particular area of Staten Island, I came across various articles using words such as fear, hate crimes, and attacks. Unsurprisingly, due to the outcome of the recent Presidential election. It saddened me to see that the influence of Mexican Americans was overshadowed by the prevalence of intolerance within our society. People seem to forget or intentionally disregard the fact that many choose to flee to the U.S. in order to escape from violence, economic strife, or oppressive governments. And the obvious fact that we are all not really supposed to be here either, I mean based on our history we pushed a whole society of people out, ironically, because they weren’t as “civilized” as us. Talk about history repeating itself!
Now, I don’t mean to come off as bitter, I’m just disappointed and over the double standard most people are just idly accepting. Luckily, despite the many adversaries they face, Mexican immigrants are still finding ways and resources to help them prosper in the U.S, One of these places is called “El Centro Del Immigrante”. El Centro Del Immigrante is located in Port Richmond and was developed in 1997. In order to help newly arrived immigrants have a smooth transition to life in the U.S., the Center provides them with the opportunity to take ESL, G.E.D, labor organizing courses and much more. It has become a safe haven for many by allowing them to form friendships with people in similar situations making them feel a little more at home. Many immigrants have gained success by opening up restaurants that offer authentic Mexican food to not only those a part of the culture but also those interested in immersing themselves in ethnic cuisine.
What better way to bring people together than by utilizing something we partake in every single day? I mean, if you think about it our lives are surrounded by food. Sharing a meal can be a pretty intimate experience. Because it’s not just “food” it is an extension of our culture and a representation of life in general. Therefore, it is not far off to believe that every “cleaned plate” can seem like a small victory toward acceptance and understanding.