Imperial Valley, Calif. – Calexico valley native, twenty-two year old, Luis Flores, is about to embark on the project of his life in August of this year. With Immigration Reform being the upcoming political issue, Flores will have the opportunity to inform immigrants who will receive amnesty and the general public about the economic situations that citizens can still struggle with, besides revealing the Imperial Valley and Mexicali’s economic statuses.
Flores is a political economics and history double major at UC Berkeley, and is one of the applicants who has been awarded the Judith Lee Stronach Prize to fund his proposed project, “El Valle y la Recesion”.
“Every year four to five graduating students receive a $25,000 award to pursue their projects,” said Flores.
The Stronach Prize provides much freedom in research, said Flores, which will be a tremendous help to him.
Starting August 2013 Flores will begin working on his project by returning to the Imperial Valley – particularly his hometown Calexico – to captivate stories through the surrounding cities valley and Mexicali that reveal his proposed purpose for the project.
Flores’ “El Valle y la Recesion” project will be a visual documentary that will focus on revealing the difficulties Imperial Valley residents, mainly immigrants, struggle with even after they are granted amnesty. Besides this, the project will expose how immigrants can easily fall into the valley’s recession once they become United States citizens.
Both of Flores’ parents were employed by the city of Mexicali before they gained amnesty through the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) law, and the recession was felt deeply in Flores’ own intermediate family, extended family, and friends, just like it was felt by many valley residents.
“This project wants to show that the typical explanations of the recession in the region are limited, because they do not look at the history of economic policies in both the Mexicali and Imperial Valleys since the 1980s,” said Flores. “Rather than blaming immigrants for borrowing too much (money), or for not being educated enough, I want to suggest that there were larger forces compelling immigrants to live a life of credit dependency,” said Flores. He also wants to connect the Imperial Valley housing boom to a set of policies that become hidden when the media blames the borrower – particularly immigrants.
The journey to completing Flores’ project will not be necessarily an easy one and he won’t be able to do it alone, but it is something worthwhile to him.
“I think the best scholarly work is situated in personal experience. Good research is usually nuanced, it is difficult to do this without the instincts shared by personal experience,” said Flores.
Flores is planning on getting students from Imperial Valley College, San Diego State University Imperial Valley campus, and Universidad Autonoma de Baja California to participate and assist him in conducting interviews, organizing an art exhibit, running an interactive project website, and generating and distributing credit resources to showcase the different aspects of his “El Valle y la Recesion” project.
He said this project is fundamentally about collective knowledge production, and that this goal is only enriched by different perspectives.
Prior to attending UC Berkeley, Flores attended Imperial Valley College (IVC) where he was enrolled in both journalism courses taught there, various studio art classes, and even assisted in organizing an art gallery at IVC.
Flores believes the skills he acquired at IVC will translate well for his upcoming project by clearly reflecting what he will be working on in telling a story about the Mexicali and Imperial Valley residents – mostly Hispanics participants – on transnational history of credit-dependence.