Eight Decades of Refugee Assistance

 

Spanish Refugee ProgramRecently, we were looking through posters from the 1980’s calling for solidarity with Central American refugees who were fleeing their homes due to civil wars. Tragically, 25 years later, these messages are still current.

And so is our faithful response as a community. We’ve seen that small, consistent acts of hospitality and solidarity can have an incredible impact. This has been true throughout the history of Friends’ in Mexico – even before the Casa was founded.

In the late 1930’s, Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas opened the nation to those fleeing the Spanish Civil War. Local Friends working with the American Friends Service Committee saw to the needs of newly arrived Spanish refugees and responded to the crisis with logistical support and a critical loan program that helped industrious newcomers open small businesses. Spanish refugees used these loans to open bakeries, hotels, and tailor shops, which continue to dot Mexico City’s neighborhoods today.

Friends Heberto and Suzanne Sein led this work, which was then based out of their house on Monte Blanco Avenue. Many Spaniards participated in the sewing circles held there, as well as the first silent Quaker Meetings for Worship in Mexico City.

Refugee Family 80sDuring the Central American civil wars of the 1980’s, Casa de los Amigos was the principal receiver of refugees in Mexico City. At that time, the Casa had several people working full-time on the Emergency Refugee Assistance Program, including two social workers. We organized all aspects of this work: job opportunities, medical care, psychological support, schooling, legal advice and representation, and more. That work, in conjunction with the UNHCR and other small solidarity groups, lasted more than a decade, and laid the groundwork for Mexico’s powerful present-day migrant and refugee rights movement.

In 2006, once more in the face of a new refugee crisis, the Casa was again led to offer temporary emergency housing and accompaniment to the most vulnerable of migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers from dozens of countries. Through our Solidarity Lodging Program, we are now offering our housing as a foundation for the complex process of local integration. This year, we also celebrated five years of hosting free, daily Spanish classes for migrants and refugees. Since 2010, over 700 students have had the opportunity to gain the essential language and cultural skills to succeed in their new country.

Over these three distinct periods in the life of the Casa and Quaker social action in Mexico, we have lived out our commitment to people in transition and in need of help. Our special form of hospitality has transcended these many decades and the borders and barriers that so often impede us.

This work would not happen without the faith you have in us and all of your contributions over the years. If you haven’t already, please make your end-of-the year donation today.

Thank you so much for all of your support.

Merry Christmas!