Public journalism

Thursday night I hosted the first of a monthly series of events in Boise, Idaho tied to the topic of Amor and Exile. I am currently serving as one of the 8th Street Artists in Residence (AiR) in downtown Boise; I get free office space in a very cool building, in exchange for monthly programming in the building. See Boise Weekly’s original story on the program for more on the idea of the residency.

For the first event of the Exploring Amor and Exile series, I piped in Ben and Deyanira, from Playa del Carmen in Mexico, via Skype. I’ve known Ben for several years as a fellow personality in the Idaho media landscape. He hosts a two hour talk and news segment on La Fantastica 970 AM, a Spanish language station in Idaho’s Magic Valley. In 2007, his fiancee, Deyanira, was detained at LAX on her way to Idaho Falls for their wedding. She was then deported back to Mexico, bouquet in hand, because she tried to enter on a valid tourist visa, rather than a marriage visa. Ben has been living in Mexico for about three years now, waiting out her three-year ban and trying to figure out what to do next.

Here is their story, in their own words, as told to a group of about 15 people in Boise Thursday night.

Exploring Amor and Exile #1 | A short video from the first in the Exploring Amor and Exile series at Boise’s 8th Street Marketplace. (Call Recorder to be purchased ex post facto).

I have interviewed Ben a half a dozen times in the last six months and have already written up much of their story. But this public interview was extremely valuable for several reasons. First of all—and this is hard to admit—I screwed up Deyanira’s last name in my notes. Ben corrected me right away in the comments under the Facebook invite for the event.

I also thought to ask them, for the first time, how they would compare U.S. Homeland Security to the Instituto Nacional de Migración, Mexico’s immigration system; Ben will soon be eligible to become a Mexican citizen. Ben replied (after giving props to the immigration office in San Miguel de Allende, where he used to live): “It’s the same old, same old, I mean, there’s no difference, you go from one country to the next, same thing. I’ve seen how the migra treats the Central American people who come over the [Mexican] border …”

The audience—I should say, the people we journalists formerly considered the audience—sat next to me on comfy couches, during the interview, and jumped in at several points with questions. People wanted to know about the deportation experience, about life and work in Mexico, and most interestingly, about efforts to unite mixed-status couples like Ben and Deyanira to throw more weight at Washington, D.C. So I learned more about what the public wants to know about their story and I think everyone who attended learned something new as well.

My attempts to organize and formalize this public interview process were less successful. I created a public Google Doc that participants could edit during the event. This was inspired by a post I read a few months back on ProfHacker, a blog I read when I pretend at being a teacher. Unfortunately none of the attendees had laptops and I did not have time to coach people on editing Google Docs on their mobiles. I emailed the link out to a dozen attendees after the event, but no one has taken the initiative to provide feedback, followup questions, etc. I find it difficult to interview, moderate, monitor Skype and also mark up a Google Doc, so maybe it’s a multitasking problem.

I’m going to try again next month with crowdsourcing the interview experience, maybe with a little more advance prep for the audience participants. I think that Google Docs has the potential to do this, but if any readers have ideas for other tools to use, please comment below.

Exploring Amor and Exile #2 is at 7 pm, May 26 at Cole/Marr in Boise … the topic will be announced soon. You can subscribe to our event calendar (ical), or just check it out on the site.

 

A conversation on immigration and exile

Last Thursdays Series: Exploring Amor and Exile

April 28, 7-8:30 pm
Cole/Marr Coffee House in the Lower Level of the 8th Street Marketplace (next to Café Olé – 404 S. 8th Street)

Exploring Amor and Exile #1

Question: What would you do if your fiancée was detained at LAX and deported?

Ben "El Chupacabras" Reed and Deyanira Escalona

Come meet Idahoan Benjamin Reed and his wife, Deyanira Escalona, one of the couples featured in the upcoming book Amor and Exile, by 8th Street Artist in Residence Nathaniel Hoffman. The book is co-authored by Nicole Salgado, an American citizen living in Mexico.

Participate in a live Skype video interview with Ben and Deyanira from their new home on the Yucatán Peninsula. Bring a mobile device so that you can help Hoffman crowdsource the interview and share your reactions live, providing valuable input as the book is drafted.

Hear all about American love exiles, experience participatory journalism, have a hot beverage and overcome the national immigration stalemate all in one evening.

Find Amor and Exile @amorandexile on Twitter or,soon, on Facebook.

Welcome to Amor and Exile

Hoffman and Salgado
Hoffman and Salgado
Hoffman and Salgado outside Salgado's home in Querétaro, Mexico Photo by Nancy Gonzalez

Welcome to the new Amor and Exile blog!

This website will document the lengthy, emotional and complex process of writing a book about immigration—specifically about the deep, growing relationships between American citizens and immigrants who may not have all their papers in order. For nearly a year now, I (Nathaniel) have been documenting the trials and tribulations and also the joys and celebrations of half a dozen Americans who are involved with Mexican partners: husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends. I am excited today to announce that one of the people whom I’ve been interviewing—a good friend from college—is contributing to the book as a co-author. Nicole Salgado will provide first-person accounts of her life “in exile” in Mexico as well as flashbacks to her life in the Bay Area, where she and Margo lived before they self-deported. She will also co-author this blog with me, providing another glimpse into her life in Mexico and the collaborative process we’ve devised for the book.

[hr]

The seed for this book was planted almost a decade ago when I (Nicole) first met, then married, and finally moved to Mexico with my husband Margarito. Nathaniel’s journalistic interest in the subject, and my personal interest in documenting our situation as a memoir became concrete ideas as early as 2007. So I was excited when Nathaniel got serious about authoring a book early last year, when he began interviewing other couples as well as us. At the time I was pregnant with our daughter. When Nathaniel pitched me the idea of becoming a coauthor, soon after our daughter was born, the timing for our story to emerge in my own words felt right. As you will see both here on our blog as well as in the book, life “in exile,” both in the U.S. and in Mexico, presents a unique set of challenges—as does writing about it. But I am more enthusiastic than ever to be bringing my perspective to the table.

[twitter style=”vertical” url=”http://amorandexile.com” source=”amorandexile” text=”Welcome to Amor and Exile” float=”right”]

So bookmark this page, subscribe to our RSS feed or email newsletter and tell your friends and colleagues about us on Facebook and Twitter. We look forward to a healthy dialogue and hope that this site helps to set a new tone for the discussion over immigration in the United States.