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Artists advocate for reform

Rebecca O'Neil | Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Activist-artists and avid supporters of immigration reform Julio Salgado and Steve Pavey contributed their work to La Fuerza’s “Education without Barriers” week April 9 at Saint Mary’s. The week explores the intersection of education and immigration reform.

Both Salgado and Pavey use images to advance the cause of undocumented immigrants in the United States.

”Art defines culture,” Salgado said. “We need to use art as a tool to fight the hate against us because this country is anti-immigrant. I want people to value education for everyone. My dream is to
 create a country that educates population doesn’t criminalize it.”

As a self-identified undocumented immigrant, this issue touches Salgado personally, he said.  His work seeks to address the disenfranchisement felt by undocumented immigrants, Salgado said.

Salgado said he initially was inspired by the civil disobedience displayed in Washington, D.C., when an undocumented student was arrested for refusing to leave the sit-in advocating passage of the Federal Dream Acts.  

”There are so many dreams of potentially fixing immigration reform, fixing it the right way, but there really is no right way,” Salgado said. “We must change the way we’re seen, change the way we exist. We never go deep into what it means to be an immigrant in this country. I use art to dignify myself because it’s hard to see images that are very negative about us.”

One of his projects, “Undocumented Apparel,” is a social commentary on how people take advantage of Latin American immigrants, Salgado said.

“We don’t have a say to form how we’re being portrayed in the media,” said Salgado.  

The “artivist” and photographer Steve Pavey, also displayed his work as part of La Fuerza’s “Education, Not Deportation” art gallery in the Saint Mary’s Student Center Tuesday, April 9.


Pavey said he hoped to empower youth to take ownership of the fight for immigration rights.

“Undocumented youth need to be the leaders of this movement,” Pavey said. “I work for the undocumented youth, I let them lead.”

Pavey, who has a PhD in applied cultural anthropology, said he admires Paolo Friere, a Brazilian educator who advocates participatory research.

“[Friere] believes in the people themselves, the knowledge they own-if they can connect to that knowledge, they can become powerful,” Pavey said. “An immigrant worker in the field knows much more about themselves than I do.”

Pavey has followed and chronicled stories of people like Marco Saavedra and Isabel Castillo, undocumented immigrants who protested against the injustice of their marginalization.

“I am committed to using social scientific methods to facilitate social change and work for justice,” Pavey said. “The way to critique the structural evils in our political economy is to be with the least of us. I want to be a part of empowering their voices.”

Contact Rebecca O’Neil at [email protected]