Mexican born Diana Carrillo came to the US when she was eight. A University of Maryland Master of Public Policy candidate, she co-founded UMD’s College Park student organization, La Gente in Public Policy. La Gente aims to build community, create connections, and empower undergrad, grad students, and alumni who identify as Latinx with “an international lens in recognition of the diversity within our community.”
Solidarity activist Juliana Barnet spoke with Diana after José's event at La Gente.
How do your friends and family in Mexico see the country’s changes since the president Lopez Obrador (AMLO) came into office?
I’m close to my extended family, and we visit Mexico often. Most people are talking about the new social programs, particularly the cash transfers for the elderly. My older aunts and uncles can buy food and other things for the week now. They’re more independent and don’t have to rely on their children for money.
I think many young people hope the improvements will continue. Personally, I don’t expect big changes in just six years. But I’m going to follow the presidential campaign more closely, especially after José Luis’s presentation. He also made me think my courses should cover Mexican internal politics better than they do!
Where do you get information, here in the US, about what’s going on in Mexico?
Oh, mostly on social media like TikTok, Facebook, and so on.
My dad’s very informed and he forwards me things on Mexico sometimes. I don’t look too much at Univision or Telemundo because they have their own agendas. Recently, Univision had a friendly interview with Trump that gave him a platform there! But that’s what our community watches. We need other ways to get information.
Are you — and others you know in the Mexican community — concerned about how Mexicans are portrayed in the US news?
Unfortunately, I’ve heard the negative rhetoric about Mexico and Mexicans as long as I can remember, sometimes from our own people. Immigrants with “document privilege” don’t always have a good image of immigrants without documents. In that way, our community is divided.
We have this narrative of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. I’ve had “document privilege” since my father is a citizen, so I never had the worry and fear that my family needed to hide in the shadows. But not everyone understands their privilege. It’s always, “Why don’t ‘they’ do things the proper way?”
We’re fighting for the crumbs at the bottom and having the advantages of documents or citizenship makes you feel you’re closer to the top. When politicians reference the “bad hombres,” that’s not you, you aren’t one of those unwanted social and political “deviants.”Sowing divisiveness is a political strategy of a lot of candidates and officials.
Changing this starts with challenging each other individually. For instance, I speak up when my mom is watching something negative or says something divisive about those in a different position within our community.
José did a presentation with La Gente. What are some points and reactions that you remember?
One day my supervisor said that we need to hear different perspectives in Latin American journalism. Coincidentally, the next day an advisor, Sam Pizzigatti, suggested José Luis’s presentation to me and La Gente. It was a great idea and the School of Public Policy supported us in hosting the event.
I remember a student saying, maybe the general public buys into the negative narrative about Mexico, but young Mexicans — and especially young families — are moving back to Mexico to take advantage of some of the wonderful things not appreciated about Mexico by the public.
José talked about US imperialism affecting all of Latin America. Here at UMD, we understand solidarity across the countries we are from.
Some students are born here, some elsewhere, but when asked they still say, “I’m Peruvian, or Guatemalan, or Mexican.” But there’s never been any division or tension within the Hispanic students at UMD — we know there are not many of us, and we need to stick together. Being a minority on a campus is never easy. A lot of us are first generation students; we understand each other’s challenges.
Metro Latino USA/diversity in the Latin American community
It was reassuring to hear in José’s pesentation that a lot of Mexicans support the candidate of Morena for the next president, Claudia Sheinbaum, and about why she’s their candidate. Her identity is so different from AMLO’s; I was relieved that people have faith that she’ll continue to uphold his achievements. José Luis also explained how the PAN/PRI candidate gets portrayed in the media, especially in the US, as positive!
What do you think is the importance of events like the one we had with José Luis, for people in the US studying public policy and/or journalism?
Not everyone is tuned in to Latin America. If his presentation had coincided with a news event about Mexico that was getting a lot of public attention, more people might have come. But I’m thankful for the turnout we had. José Luis was a great presenter and gave an expert summary of what’s going on.
Sam Pizzigati, Diana Carillo, co-chair, José Luis Granados, and some members of La Gente in Public Policy, UMD
Public policy students need a more diverse perspective on international politics, specifically on Latin America. We can’t be going out into the world as policy people equipped only with a narrow view that’s based on information from the US media and US experts.
I hope we’ll have more of these dialogues, so that we hear, for instance, about what’s going in Ecuador and Guatemala. We don’t hear enough about events in our countries from the US media in general, let alone on a college campus.
We do hear about our countries from our families, but then, “Oh, we gotta go to school, we can’t bring that situation here because it’s not part of the curriculum!” [Laughs] It was a relief to have this presentation, because if more public policy students had access to this broader perspective, perhaps public policy would change for the better.