On Oct. 24, students gathered at Taylorsville Redwood Campus to celebrate the opening of the “How We Left Home” interactive art exhibit.
Hosted by students from the Immigrant Experience through Literature and Film class, “How We Left Home” is an exhibit inspired by Richard Blanco’s poem, “Mother Country.” The display is a chance to listen to the immigration stories, poems, and speeches given by students at Salt Lake Community College.
Students may participate by adding their family’s artifacts to the collection of suitcases, a display that will showcase their own family’s personal immigration story.
At the opening, Carlos Mendoza shared the story of his mother, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico City after an earthquake in the 1980s. His mother faced many obstacles, such as severe weather, a car accident and more — but mementos from home helped ease the journey. A blanket that was given to Mendoza’s mother by her grandmother is still in the family 40 years later and provides comfort to anyone who uses it.
“She has finally made it to the end of the journey,” Mendoza says. “My mom will be taking the citizenship test next week after 33 years. She has worked so hard to get where she is knowing the many obstacles it takes to become a citizen … she battled all these odds and overcame them in the end.”
Through her search for family artifacts, Madison Cochrane had the pleasure of coming across old unopened letters, dishes, and china from her third-great grandfather and other Irish and Scottish ancestors.
“It couldn’t be better timing,” Cochrane says.
In the letters, Cochrane learned of the struggles that her relatives went through to immigrate to the United States from Ireland and Scotland. Even though her relatives arrived in Tooele, Utah, and opened a repair shop and bakery, they still found themselves on the outside looking in as recent immigrants.
One letter from Cochrane’s third-great grandfather, addressed to his future kin, reads: “I hope that when you grow up you will honor those who have come from other countries and make them feel welcome so they don’t experience the same heartache and pain that I experienced when I came to the states.”
Between poems written by students and real stories of family members’ hardships, the audience was reminded of the struggle that immigrants face.
“The journey for migrants and refugees is not concluded once their geographical destination is reached. It continues, often for a lifetime, in terms of paperwork, status, acclimation, claims for immigrants to demonstrate their patriotism or allegiance to their new country, daily challenges of assimilation, the ever-present pain of what and who you left behind,” says Professor Claire Peterson. “This exhibit chronicles some of these challenges, but it also seeks to highlight the tenacity, success, courage and contributions made by immigrants to the economic cultural political and social landscape of the United States.”
Dr. Roderic R. Land, SLCC’s new dean of humanities and social sciences, says everybody has a story.
“Everybody comes from someplace. And the reality is that you don’t have to leave those places behind, but they can be a piece of us when we move forward in our life,” Land says. “Always remember where you came from, but it doesn’t have to define who you are. Because we all have a story to tell and I would definitely encourage you to tell your story as loudly and as proudly as possible.”
Salt Lake Community College will host the “How We Left Home” exhibit through Nov. 8 in the Academic and Administration Building.