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.
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.