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The Importance of Community Engagement

June 27, 2016

Undergraduate Ricardo Bennett-Guzman came to the University of Minnesota from Juarez, Mexico—a city considered one of the most dangerous in the world. “I have always been very interested in the interconnections and interactions on a global scale given that I grew up in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on one of the largest borders in the world,” Guzman says. “As a young child, it was glaringly obvious how connected the two countries were, and yet I was experiencing the extreme disparities. More recently as Mexico experienced its drug war, I witnessed first-hand mass migration out of the country. These experiences left many questions and my studies have given me the opportunity to begin to make sense out of them.”

Guzman is pursuing art and global studies majors, a pairing he found resonates with his deep interest in human rights. He wants his work to be geared toward the community and seeks to influence people to engage with their own communities as well. Currently Guzman is working on a documentary project on identity and human rights issues in Latin America. Last summer, Guzman studied abroad in South America where he worked to film subjects for his documentary to bring these issues to life.

“I wanted to film a documentary in South America about migration and the interconnections happening in that area of the world,” Guzman says. “Studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina gave me the opportunity to film my documentary while getting to know some amazing people in the arts and at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences. My experience abroad has been one that I will keep very close to my heart. The courses were great but so were the connections that I made: the people that I met and the new friends that I still keep in touch very closely.”

This semester, Guzman was hired by the University’s Immigration History Research Center. As a research assistant, he filmed and edited community members’ personal stories about immigration. “To hear stories of hope, pain, and overcoming challenges has been a great learning experience. It is encouraging to know that there are people in our communities who have overcome life experiences where life and death are part of the equation,” Guzman says. “Now I am more aware of the significance of maintaining a record of the many incredible stories of the people that make up the Twin Cities.”

“I never dreamed I would receive a research position like this in the United States, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of faculty and advisors in the Institute of Global Studies,” Guzman says. “I hope that in the future I am able to keep filming stories that create awareness about the human condition and about the most pressing issues in the world and reach as many people as I can.”

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.