Inside out (web)

Photo Credit: Matt Trevino

Residents who pass the Magik Theatre, the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center and Haven for Hope will notice a new presence on their walls. Members of the “Inside Out 11M” Project posted portraits of San Antonio locals last week to bring focus to the issue of immigration.

“The project hopes to raise awareness and get people talking about immigration,” explains Bob Makela, a location scout from Austin that joined Inside Out 11M to aid their efforts in Texas. “Instead of just giving them numbers, these are faces and stories behind the number… That’s how you shift the narrative from numbers to stories and once you hear the story, (and) what people go through… it’s easier to rally behind the cause. You get moved by it.”

“All of these faces, all of these stories; I love it,” expresses Makela as he gazes at the most recently pasted portraits.

Itza Carbajl, Program Coordinator at the Esperanza, a fellow Roadrunner, and Susana Segura, Project Development Coordinator at the Esperanza, were a key part in making sure the San Antonio initiative was successful. “The Inside Out Project approached us a few days ago because they were looking for potential sites. We’re big supporters of immigration reform, and we thought it was a really good project to collaborate with.”

“There is no set image of what it looks like to be ‘from here’,” states Carbajl. “They try and send you this image so you see who is ‘the other’. If you look different, it’s bad; you’re not accepted.”

“People ask me, ‘Where are you from?’ I feel like it’s a way to put me in my place.” echoes Segura.

Roadrunner Diego Mancha, a sophomore majoring in Mexican-American studies with a concentration in political science, is one of the faces on the wall of the Esperanza. Mancha is the Director of Public Relations and acting president of the San Antonio Immigrant Youth Movement’s UTSA Chapter. His motivation is simple: Mancha is undocumented.

Although she could have legally entered the U.S. on her own, Mancha’s mother refused to leave her children in a violent Mexico. At seven years old, Mancha arrived to find both physical safety and a tumultuous political situation.

“I was sworn to secrecy by my mother. Silence is part of the mindset of parents of the undocumented,” says Mancha. “If I was asked about (immigration reform) two years ago, I would have said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. Why are we talking about this?’” He, like others, has made an effort to immerse themselves in American culture, going so far as to get rid of his accent, to avoid being ostracized.

Now, Mancha has made it his goal to educate others on the struggles that undocumented children face and to emphasize the importance of immigration reform.

Diego Mancha’s story is one of the many that Inside Out hopes will receive more attention. “Ultimately, it’s about people, and these faces represent those very people,” says Susana.

The San Antonio Immigrant Youth Movement’s community meetings are held at 7 p.m. every Wednesday at 2006 W. Commerce. UTSA Chapter meetings are expected to be every Monday at 3 p.m., though they have not begun yet.

The San Antonio Immigrant Youth Movement was begun in 2010 after the hunger strike that followed the failed passage of the DREAM Act. It seeks to provide a place for people to have conversations about immigration as well as educate others about the issues that face many undocumented people.

Photographer JR started The Inside Out Project after he won the TED prize in March 2011. Their website states that it’s a worldwide “participatory art project.” JR’s hope: “I wish for you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we’ll turn the world… inside out.” There have been postings at 8,592 locations in over 100 countries, including South Africa, Colombia, and Pakistan.

The Inside Out 11M Project is a nationwide group action that has put up installations everywhere from Los Angeles to Miami.

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