Cooking in Crisis: Food and its Relation to the Mexican Immigrant Experience

The first meeting in the ongoing series “Cooking in Crisis” was held last Tuesday at 100 Broad Street. Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies Cristina Serna and Assistant Dean and Director of International Student Services Christina Khan gave a brief lecture about her time at the U.S.-Mexico border and then opened up the floor for a discussion on multiple diverse issues. Topics ranged from the relationships between food and immigrants to the struggles that undocumented immigrants face incoming to America.

“We want to help build consciousness around where food comes from, who is involved in the process that brings food to us, and find ways to navigate these complex issues and systems,” Serna said, summarizing the goal of the Cooking in Crisis sessions.

Khan began the meeting by reading a poem from “Dreaming the End of War,” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Following this reading, Serna presented a series of images designed to prompt discussion. Students were invited to share their interpretations of the images and videos, which ranged from political cartoons to news reports. Perspectives on these issues varied from person to person, but discussion centered on the inequalities and struggles faced by Mexican immigrants and workers.

Khan also detailed her work along the U.S.-Mexico border this summer. Among the biggest issues that she touched upon was the treatment of undocumented immigrants who have been apprehended by border patrol in their attempts to enter the U.S. According to Khan, these people are often left stranded hundreds of miles from their homes.

“It would be like if you got dropped off in San Diego and were told to get back to Hamilton without any help,” Khan said.

According to Khan, many families are left at the border without any money or means of transportation, while others are held in detention centers where they face human rights abuses. These families flee their homes for many different reasons. One common cause is the violent oppression that many Mexican citizens face at the hands of drug cartels.

Khan also stressed the dangers of dehumanizing Mexican immigrants.

“These people are not just numbers. They have life goals,” Khan said.

A student representative for the group, junior Astonya Ambrose, invited students who are interested in these issues to attend the meetings in the future. Ambrose and sophomore Alma Brizio are both leaders of the Cooking in Crisis group.

“For next semester, we are planning to focus on the issues within the U.S. with the African-American community. Focusing on events such as Charleston or anything that is relevant to black lives in the U.S.,” Ambrose said.