Award-winning anthropologist Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez presented “Visiones de la Frontera,” the new Spanish version of “Border Visions” at the prestigious Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara in December.
The book weaves his family’s history with the larger migrations from Mesoamerica to what is now the Southwestern United States. The back-and-forth journeys of Vélez-Ibáñez’s family across the international border between Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora blur the political boundaries to create a “cultural place and space,” a practice which dates back at least 500 years.
“Border Visions,” and its Spanish edition, have received critical and academic acclaim on both sides of the border. The work became a jumping off point for Vélez-Ibáñez’s current work in the “colonias,” or informal communities, of New Mexico, populated mostly by immigrant and migrant Mexican farm workers.
His present projects in the colonias include “overcoming barriers to enumeration for the U.S. Census Bureau,” he said. “The other project involves a research, training, and community development initiative.”
The border residents of modest means live in substandard housing and frequently have no established services such as running water, electricity, sewer service or paved roads. Vélez-Ibáñez hopes to create a way in which colonia residents can get the services they need to improve the quality of their lives.
His book and field work have also spurred Vélez-Ibáñez to reorganize the Ernesto Galarza Public Policy and Humanities Research Bureau, which he directs, to focus on issues of transnational migration between the U.S. and Mexico. By tackling issues of culture, education, labor, economy and community development, Vélez-Ibáñez hopes to provide long-term research and training programs that benefit Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.
“By 2050, Latinos will be one third of the U.S. population, and, if we don’t address the gaps now, we’re going to be in a world of hurt later,” he said.