“The more you can increase fear of immigrants and aliens, the more you control all of the people.” – Noam Chomsky

Question of the day: How do culture, history, and politics affect the immigrants’ identities?

Hola, we are Shwun Hlaing and Beatrice Divina for today’s Lideres Del Dia. Today’s theme is immigration and the history behind it. Today we woke up at 6AM and had to leave for a four-hour drive to Juan Dolio from Jarabacoa. A lot of us caught up on our sleep and ate our snacks that we bought at the supermercado yesterday. Within an hour left of our ride, we saw the coastlines of the DR with its bright blue waters crashing into shore. We then arrived at an inn with its beachy, fancy decorations and bright blue pool. We met a brilliant speaker named Pedro Valdez who did a slide presentation on the long, eventful history of immigration within the DR and Haiti. He is getting his masters in Latin American immigration studies and does research on migration stories globally. Later in the afternoon around 4PM, we drove to the sugar cane fields to meet Domingo Cena who is the president of the sugar cane workers’ community, He chopped up sugar canes for us to taste, which was sweet and juicy, and explained what life is like as an immigrant sugar cane worker. This theme was important to learn because we should learn the history of immigration in this country (and Haiti) and their fight for human rights in order to not repeat our mistakes.

From Pedro, we learned about the immigration to this island, which was involved with the Spanish, the French, and pirates. We also learned about the Haitian immigrants’ struggle for citizenship due to the government’s racial and colorist discrimination towards them. I (Shwun) can relate to what Pedro said about his experience in US. He is a Afro Latino, but people think he is African-American. As an immigrant of US, I feel a connection of how the idea of diversity affects the perspective of the person. From Domingo, we learned about how it is hard to work as a sugar cane immigrant worker and what the community faces daily. I (Beatrice) felt taken back about the circumstances of the workers that they go through every day since they are overworked and underpaid. My eyes were opened as I was able to listen to an immigrant’s point of view. On the other hand, we were surprised by the crunchy texture and sweet flavor of the sugar canes. Due to our peers’ attentiveness and eagerness to ask questions, we felt proud as they have the heart to expand their knowledge and help support communities in need.

Being a leader may sound very serious but with the support of our peers it is like a piece of cake. I (Shwun) never experienced of being a leader of big group. I was nervous, but I over come it. Beatrice and I headcount whenever we go somewhere or go back to the bus so we do not lose people. I also remind them to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen every 2 hours. We also did a mental warm-up about immigration and prepared our question for Pedro. We are in charge of giving a gift (a San Francisco postcard signed by all of us) and big love to appreciate the speaker. The most inspiring moment was how Pedro patiently answered all the questions during and at the end of the presentation. I (Beatrice) was anxious for my role as a leader even though I signed up for it without hesitation and with pride. I was worried that my learning disability along with my bad habit of forgetfulness would ruin the day. Fortunately, my peers and leaders, Bridgett and Brendan, reassured me that I do not need to memorize a book filled with instructions like a robot to be a leader, but be one from the heart and act as yourselves. These people gave me all the support and love as they could. I reminded the students of the time passing based on our schedule, grabbed their attention when needed, and even entertained them with my unique sense of humor.

We (Shwun and Beatrice) embodied the principles of courage, commitment, compassion, and camaraderie by listening to one another with an open mind and acted kind towards each other (and our peers) even though we were exhausted from the bus ride. I (Shwun) want to give big love shout out to my sister who is the leader of my life. I want to start by saying I saw your messages and tell mom I miss her meals. Since my family immigrated to US, she is the only one who did the government paperwork or taxes claims due to the language change. She inspires me in every part of my life. I (Beatrice) want to give one to Brendan and Bridgett for having my back during times where I felt self-doubt as the leader of the day. They acknowledged the fact that I have my own style of being a leader and at the end of the day, they stated that Shwun and I have had excellent communication with each other, which was something valuable.

Tonight and for tomorrow’s Adventure and Fun Day, we are passing the torch to Alex Myamoto and Noe Morales!

Much love from,

Beatrice Divina and Shwun Hliang