Global Studies Speaker Discusses Central American Migration

Global Studies speaker Rich Brown visited Morristown-Beard School on January 16th to speak with several classes about the forces that lead migrants from Guatemala and other Central American countries to regularly risk their lives to reach the United States.

Brown, a journalist who has been living in Guatemala for the past five years, drew on his personal experiences as well as statistical analysis to explore the motivations that compel people to migrate. He discussed many of the social, economic and historical factors, including poverty, malnutrition and climate change.

“In Guatemala, 50 percent of children under the age of six suffer from malnutrition,” Brown said. “And most of the wealth in Guatemala and other Central American countries is in the hands of very few people.”

This past fall, Brown was one of the journalists covering the migrant caravan in Mexico. “Everyone I talked to was aware of the risks, but they take the chance because the situation at home is really dire,” he said.

He explained that a caravan is a safer way for migrants to travel, and he touched on many of the perils that they face along the way, including the threat of kidnapping by drug cartels, and the extreme conditions of the Sonoran Desert, where it is “brutally hot during the day and hypothermic at night.”

He underscored the point that the vast majority of immigrants come to the United States to get a job and to improve life for their children and family members back home. He also cited statistics showing that undocumented immigrants commit less crime than native-born citizens in the United States.

In addition to discussing migration, Brown spoke about the indigenous Maya culture in Guatemala and the centuries of marginalization and oppression that the Maya people continue to face. 

Brown’s presentations were made possible with the help of MBS Global Studies Coordinator Aline de la Torre-McCloskey, and were arranged through the Global Speaker Series funded by Where There Be Dragons.


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