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National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated every year from September 15 to October 15. In recognition of this event, I spoke with Oscar Chacón of Alianza Americas to hear about his story as a Co-Founder and Executive Director of a transnational network of immigrant rights organizations.
Oscar’s commitment to El Salvador reminds us that our countries of origin are more than just a reason to celebrate this season. Our countries of origin and families are pillars of the movement, and our shared responsibility in advancing the immigrant rights movement begins with our roots.
Let’s start with your introduction, can you tell me a little about yourself and the work you do?
My name is Oscar Chacón. I am originally from El Salvador. I was born and raised in El Salvador but lived for more than 40 years in the United States. I came to the United States very young and have dedicated almost my entire life, even before arriving in the United States, to issues related to economic justice, social justice, and racial justice.
I currently live in the Chicago area and serve as the Executive Director of Alianza Americas, which is a national network in the United States of Latin American immigrant-led organizations with strong transnational connections in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and many other countries around the world with whom we share the same aspiration, which is to be able to generate better living conditions for our communities, wherever we are, but also for our countries of origin. We firmly believe that if people’s lives were satisfactory, dignified, fair, safe, [then] very few people would look for a better life elsewhere.
What are some of the characteristics you admire in the immigrant movement?
I want to emphasize that once again it is demonstrated that migrants and migrant families are important to a country like the United States and we are as important for our families in our countries of origin.
The strength of Latin American families once again becomes our most important pillar, from which to ensure that we do not fall, from which to ensure that we can strengthen ourselves and that we can come out of it renewed in energy despite undoubtedly living hard, difficult, and complicated times, but where I have full confidence that we will come out stronger.
How did you develop the transnational communication network at Alianza Americas?
I am lucky to have been able to build bonds of friendship and solidarity with partners in Asia, Africa, and Europe, with whom we have worked over the last twenty years. My main emphasis has been the region made up of Central America, Mexico, and the United States because I am convinced that our futures are closely linked.
At the end of the 1980s, it was clear to me that we could never solve the problem of a public policy issue as complicated as immigration policy in the United States unless we paid attention to what was happening in the countries where people came from.
It has to do with the patterns of conflict in the countries, with the lack of economic opportunities and social welfare, and with the insecurity experienced by citizens there. All this pointed to something much more complicated. It is clear that when talking about economic justice in the United States without considering what is happening South of the border is almost absurd.
It will be difficult to achieve fair living conditions, equitable living conditions, and safe living conditions if we do not approach it from a regional perspective.
Currently, there are basically three major issues that bind us very strongly. One is the importance of seeking solutions to inequalities, starting with economic inequality, but also racial inequality, and gender inequality. The second issue is democracy, which has also emerged as a very powerful issue because of its deterioration as experienced by the people. The third topic is a serious problem that has precisely to do with the topic of the technological revolution, the digital revolution. It is the issue of dominant narratives, where we see that there is a wide range of false narratives that make it difficult for us to have a common denominator based on solid evidence. The common denominator would lead us to make proposals for solutions in different fields of public policy, allowing us to solve the problems that most afflict people.
How can digital tools complement the fight against disinformation?
My experience as a migrant person occurs when the digital revolution was just beginning to emerge which radically changed the way we communicate today and the way we can also be in contact with multiple realities at the same time.
We strengthen ties in the region with the benefit of many digital tools such as email, as well as the ease of communicating by telephone with partners in other countries. Maximizing the benefit of these tools in order to achieve better-shared understandings with partners in countries beyond the United States. It is an area that we obviously continue to try to improve. I recognize that there are continuous challenges because you never reach perfection, but rather you have to be innovating all the time. [Through the] construction of narratives that are recognized as true by more and more people, we combine the ability to put pressure on economic decision-makers and political decision-makers using the best possible digital tools. And this is something that, I repeat, is a process in which we are still growing.