October 1, 2013, “Siempre Adelante” Official Premier Screening
By Emily Nyren, Intern Alumni and Volunteer
Every fall semester, the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) creates events on a variety of social issues to educate students and members of the community and to encourage civic engagement. On October 1, 2013, SPOHP premiered Siempre Adelante: A Look at Faith and the Immigrant Struggle, a film produced by SPOHP Digital Humanities Coordinator Deborah Hendrix and Maria C. Muñoz. The film sheds light on the immigrant community of Alachua County and the daily struggles they encounter. The goal of Siempre Adelante is to inspire audiences to participate in the movement for immigrant rights and to inform the Gainesville community of the struggle that occurs so close to home.
Background: Developing the Film
Siempre Adelante, SPOHP’s third full-length documentary, features the narratives of four immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala who share the struggle of living undocumented in Alachua County. Some of the issues discussed include: domestic violence, exploitation, and their dangerous journey to a foreign country in hopes of a better quality of life. The film also explores how faith has been a source of support in the face of fear and discrimination in the United States.
Pastor Jaime Zelaya of Gainesville approached SPOHP with the proposal for Siempre Adelante in an effort to encourage understanding of the complex struggles that new immigrants to Alachua experience. Pastor Zelaya was inspired to begin the project by members of his congregation at Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Alachua (Spanish Baptist Church of Alachua).
Event Presentation: Screening “Siempre Adelante”
The film depicts first person Spanish-language interviews with English voiceovers interchanged with clips of Pastor Zelaya speaking to his congregation. A few members of the SPOHP team act out some of the interviewee’s oral histories to provide a visual representation of their experiences. The faces of those sharing their stories were not shown and their voices and names were altered to preserve their wish for anonymity.
Nelson, a construction worker from El Salvador, describes the horrible working conditions he faced after a harrowing journey across the border to the United States. Three years after he arrived and his working contract was finished, Nelson faced threats of blackmail and being revealed to immigration if he did not continue to work. Andrea from Guatemala shares her experience with domestic violence and emotional abuse from her husband. Alejandro and Sophia, a married couple with children, highlight how American police are not viewed as helpful to immigrants because they are associated with being deported. All four inspiring interviewees stress the importance of faith and how joining the church community bettered their lives in Alachua.
After the screening, audience members returned question cards to the film’s producers. Maria C. Muñoz and Pastor Zelaya insightfully responded to questions about local immigrant issues and methods to help the community. Hispanic Heritage Month at UF co-sponsored the event, and Genesis Lara, central coordinator of Hispanic Heritage Month, presented the audience with information about events celebrating Hispanic culture taking place in September and October.
Siempre Adelante also received support from CHISPAS UF, an organization comprised of students and community members united in the effort to improve the plight of the immigrant community. CHISPAS UF focuses on farmworker justice, the DREAM Act, comprehensive immigration reform, human rights for all, and issues facing undocumented youth in the United States. Treasurer of CHISPAS UF, Vanessa Colchado, spoke at the screening of Siempre Adelante to address how to get involved in immigrants rights in Gainesville.
SPOHP interns, volunteers, and staff prepared food and drinks for the reception before the event. SPOHP public programs are known for the delicious desserts and other foods made by Dr. Ortiz’s wife, Sheila Payne. During the reception, students and members of the community discussed the film over refreshments. Many members of the audience voiced their surprise at finding out how large the immigrant community in Alachua is, and about the injustices that they face.
This public program was made possible by a grant from the UF Center for the Humanities in the Public Sphere Rothman Endowment and co-sponsored by UF NAACP and the UF Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures. Local community organizations and individuals contributed a significant amount of the production costs for Siempre Adelante.