By Derek Jacobs
SALT LAKE CITY – The United States isn’t much more than a hop, run or swim away from Mexico — but those who immigrate here may soon realize they’re getting much more than they bargained for.
In the face of many obstacles, it is natural for immigrants, illegal or not, to feel vulnerable.
“I think that the biggest problem is that people like me, when we get here, we don’t know anything about the rules, about the laws. It’s a big problem,” said Arsenio Gonzalez, a coordinator at Centro Civico Mexicano.
The president of the CCM, Brandy Farmer, explained that the center holds conferences where they invite immigration attorneys to come and talk to the public about changes in laws and how they will affect the community.
On top of that CCM holds English classes and offers basic computer skills courses.
Farmer, said she reaches out to local religious group and works with them in the continuing effort to make more people aware of these services. She is very passionate about making the center a connection to immigrants’ rich cultural heritages and a conduit to helping them reach a successful future.
The center serves as a touchstone for the Spanish people, a kind of sacred space where people can come and feel safe, said Farmer.
One the side of the building is painted a mural of a person yelling, and the words, “Nadie Se Mira Ilegal” which translates to “no one looks illegal.”
Farmer said, “it is a way to stand up and say that anyone could be undocumented, and not just because you’re a certain color of skin.”
One of CCM’s goals is to educate the population by helping more people understand what immigrants go through.
“It is more [of] a humanitarian issue than anything,” Farmer said.
The Centro Civico Mexicano has a gymnasium and a large room that they rent out to different organizations or people. Dance classes are frequently held in the large room, with the dances featuring a connection to the heritages’ of Mexico and Latin America.
On Wednesday nights the center even offers a class of various Aztec dances.
Alejandro Melendez a dance instructor from Puebla Mexico, invests his time and talents in teaching the youth in these classes more than just dance.
“I try to teach them my culture,” said Melendez, “at the same time I teach them respect, humility, and how to stay on a good path.”
“As I learn the [Mexican] history, I become more and more excited about preserving our history,” Farmer said.
The center goes to great lengths to make sure that the upcoming generation of Mexican-Americans do not forget their past.
CCM holds huge celebrations during Cinco de Mayo and the 16th of September; with big displays of Mexican art and performances of traditional Mexican dances.