Interior Masthead

Every year, we take a break from regular classes to immerse ourselves in the study of a region or country. We bring in experts to teach us Farsi or Brazilian percussion. We discuss history, literature, politics, and what’s on television. We cook together and share perspectives. And in the end, we all see the world from a different point of view.

Throughout the week, Upper School students and faculty will be participating both on and off-campus in one of seventeen separate research projects that include topics such as water scarcity in Mexico City, the Mexican mural art and mosaic movements, Mexican dance, music, and religious traditions, rights for the Mexican LGTQB community, nonviolent political action by Mexican Americans, political art at the Mexico/US border, and the experiences of Mexican immigrants here in Philadelphia. This year, our InterSession student committee will be involved throughout the week, and for the first time this year, two students (Karytho Aslan '18 and Hannah Caskey '18) designed and submitted proposals for research projects, which they will be coleading with teacher partners.

In addition to the student-conducted research, twenty speakers will be visiting the FSS campus or Skyping in throughout the week to speak with students about their academic, professional, and personal expertise on Mexico.

Speaker Biographies

Monday 1/22
Speakers Series, 10:20 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Michelle Angela Ortiz, Artist (Theatre)
Michelle Angela Ortiz is a visual artist, muralist, and community arts educator who uses art as a vehicle to represent people and communities whose histories are often lost or co-opted. Ortiz has designed and created over 50 large-scale public works nationally (PA, NJ, MS, NY) and internationally. Since 2008, Ortiz has led community building and art for social change public art projects both independently in Costa Rica and Ecuador and through the United States Embassy as a Cultural Envoy in Fiji, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Venezuela, and Honduras. In Cuba, she completed the first U.S. State funded public art project since the re-opening of the United States Embassy in Havana in 2015. Here in Philadelphia, you can see Ortiz’s Aqui y Alla mural at the intersection of 6th and Greenwich streets in South Philadelphia. Ortiz will be speaking about her current work, which highlights stories from immigrant families as a way to humanize the conversation around immigration, citizenship, and identity in our country. You can read more about Ortiz and her political art partnerships with Mural Arts Philadelphia here.

Arthur Schmidt, Temple University (PA/Seminar Room)
Arthur Schmidt is a Professor Emeritus of History at Temple University where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses in Latin American history, Mexican migration to the United States, and world economic history. In addition to teaching, Schmidt has authored numerous publications about Mexico, the Mexican revolution, and Mexican identity. At Temple, Schmidt is a former Director of the Latin American Studies Center, former Director of the Urban Studies Program, and a former chair of the Board of Temple University Press. Schmidt will be presenting a talk titled, Mexico’s 2018 Critical Conjuncture, Years in the Making. Mexico currently faces a contentious presidential election year full of dangers and opportunities. In order to help us comprehend this critical conjuncture, Schmidt will walk us through an examination of recent historical experience along with a discussion of Mexico's vulnerabilities and sources of strength.

Ch’uya Lane, Bloomberg Philanthropies and FSS class of ‘93 (Library)
Have you heard of the soda tax in Philadelphia? Did you know that it is based on a tax model first passed in Mexico?

Ch’uya Lane, a 1993 graduate of Friends Select School, lived and worked in Mexico to support the passage of Mexico’s 2013 tax (1 peso per liter) on sugary beverages. This 2013 tax in Mexico was the first national tax on sugary beverages, and it set a precedent that other nations and cities have been following. Lane will talk about what it was like to work for an American company abroad in Mexico, the Mexican health and medical communities she learned about, and what it was like to work on a socio-political campaign in Mexico.

Candy Gonzalez, University of the Arts (STEAM Lab)
Candy Gonzalez’s graduate research focused on the US/Mexican border and the impact of the US policy of “prevention through deterrence.” As part of her research, Ms. Gonzalez examined changes in border policing, changes in the routes used by migrants seeking to cross the border undetected, the staggering jump in migrant fatalities, and the work of volunteer organizations to provide health and welfare assitance to potential migrants, and to collect and document the remains of those who perished while crossing. Gonzalez culminated her research with a book art instalation commemorating those migrants who died crossing the border and the lack of official documentation of their deaths by either the US or Mexican governments.

Carlos Torres, Consul of Press and Promotion, Mexico Consulate in Philadelphia (201)
Carlos Torres is an active Consul for the Mexican government here in Philadelphia. Torres will be talking about the international role of the Mexican Consulate in Philadelphia, and the services the Consuls provide for Mexican and Mexican-American citizens. Torres will also also be presenting an overview of Mexican politics and culture with a focus on partnerships between the United States, Mexico, and their North American neighbor Canada. Torres will be joined by Ivette Compean of the Mexican Cultural Center.

Ivette Compeán, Mexican Cultural Center (201)
Ivette Compean will be talking about the role of Philadelphia’s Mexican Cultural Center. The Mexican Cultural Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting Mexico its rich heritage, history, people, cuisine, and traditions. As such, the MCC serves as a networking hub for individuals, businesses, and students interested in Mexican culture and commerce. To further its mission, the MCC works closely with the Consulate of Mexico in Philadelphia and many institutions in the region to promote and educate the public on the arts and culture of Mexico. Compean will be talking about that partnership, Mexican culture here in Philadelphia, and annual programs sponsored by the MCC such as the Mexican Independence Day Festival, Day of the Dead, and Mexican Week in Philadelphia. Ivette Compean will be speaking with Carlos Torres.

Benjamin Miller, Barbacoa Restaurant (202)
Ben Miller is one half of the dynamic team behind the Philadelphia restaurant South Philly Barbacoa. With his partner Christina Martinez, Miller began South Philly Barbacoa in his apartment, and together they grew that home restaurant into a food cart at 8th and Watkins Streets, and eventually into their brick and mortar space in the southern half of the Italian Market on 9th Street. In addition to being a James Beard recognized restaurant, and being named one of the top ten restaurants in America by Bon Appétit, Miller and Martinez have been passionate campaigners for the rights of immigrants, both documented and undocumented. Together they have used the success of their restaurant as an opportunity to share Martinez’s story as an undocumented worker and business owner, they have been active in the #Right2Work movement speaking in different cities along the East Coast, and they were organizers of Philadelphia’s Day without Immigrants general strike last May. You can learn more about Ben, Christina, and their work in this video.

Monday 1/22
Personal Stories Series, 11:45 a.m. - 12:45 a.m.

Candy Gonzalez (Theatre)
You can read about Candy Gonzalez’s academic research above, but in this talk, Gonzalez will be talking about her family’s experience with immigration from Mexico to the United States. While Gonzalez is an American citizen, her parents came to the United States as undocumented immigrants. Gonzalez will share her experience growing up in a household with mixed documented status, and her experiences with the immigrant documentation process.

Gretel Cuevas Verdín, University of Pennsylvania & Bryn Mawr College (PA/Seminar Room)
Gretel Cuevas Verdín is a Mexican citizen, who has been studying here in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania and has an excellent understanding of Mexican culture, arts, history, and politics, and a great capacity to communicate with high school students.

Ch’uya Lane ‘93 (Library)
You can read about Ch’uya Lane’s professional experiences above, but in this talk she will focus on what it was like to live and work as an American in Mexico.

Isabel Diaz Alanis, University of Pennsylvania & Fiction Author (STEAM Lab)
Isabel Diaz Alanis was born in Monterrey, México where she resided until she moved to Mexico City to pursue her bachelors in Latin American Literature at the Universidad Iberoamericana. During this time she worked as a freelance style corrector for several magazines, an experience that came in handy during her time as Book Review Editor for the Hispanic Review. She has collaborated at Revista de Literatura Mexicana Contemporánea, the cultural magazine Letras Libres and the newspaper El País for "Viajeros Urbanos." Alanis’ dissertation for the University of Pennsylvania revolves around the intersections between the concept of the Mexican intellectual and contemporary notions of gender, nation, race, and class. Alanis’s talk will focus on growing up in Mexico, her experiences studying in Mexico versus the United States, and what it is like writing as a Mexican woman for a trans-American audience.

Carlos Torres and Ivette Compeán (201)
Have you ever considered living and working in another country? Have you ever wondered what it is to be a diplomat or to work for an international organization or in a consular office? Carlos Torres from the Consulate of Mexico in Philadelphia and Ivette Compeán from the Mexican Cultural Center will share their personal experiences and stories that shaped their professional careers and helped them decide to proudly represent Mexico abroad.

Tuesday 1/23
Immigration panel with Q&A, 8:00 - 9:30

Vleidmy R. Velarde, HIAS
Vleidmy R. Velarde is the Latino Outreach and Immigration Services Coordinator for HIAS PA. HIAS Pennsylvania provides legal, resettlement, citizenship, and supportive services to immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from all backgrounds in order to ensure their fair treatment and full integration into American society. Services include refugee resettlement, support for those recently granted asylum, as well as legal services for those who seek asylum, family unification, permanent legal status, and citizenship.

Karenina Wolf, Esq.
Karenina Wolf graduated from Temple Law in January 2013 and obtained her license to practice law in Pennsylvania and New Jersey that same year. She opened her own immigration law practice in the heart of South Philadelphia in January 2015. Wolf grew up in the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Her father, a small town doctor, taught her everything she knows about being client-centered and truly listening for how she can be of service to each of her clients. Her mother, who is from Guadalajara, Mexico, taught her how to care about people and to genuinely contribute to their lives. Wolf perfected her Spanish skills while studying in Madrid, Spain and through frequent visits her family in Mexico, and she practices her Spanish regularly as many of her clients are from Mexico, or travelled to the United States through Mexico.

Jeff Gammage, Inquirer
Jeff Gammage, who covers immigration and demographics for The Philadelphia Inquirer, was part of the five-reporter team that won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. He’s the author of China Ghosts: My Daughter's Journey to America, My Passage to Fatherhood, and has written widely on adoption for publications including The New York Times. He’s a 1982 graduate of James Madison University, and a recipient of the school’s Ronald E. Carrier Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.

Gammage describes his writing as, “I cover immigration - the people, the issues, the conflicts.” The night before our immigration panel, Gammage will be in Bensalem to cover a protest and hearing over the local government’s plan to have its police officers enforce federal immigration laws. Gammage hopes to share what it’s like to try to cover immigration at this extraordinary time, and the demands that imposes and the limits it places on full understanding.

Thursday 1/25
Speaker Series, 8:50 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

Michael Paarlberg, Virginia Commonwealth University and the Institute for Policy Studies, Washington D.C. (Theatre)
Michael Paarlberg is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for the Study of Ethnicity, Race and Immigration at the University of Pennsylvania (2017 – 2018), and assistant professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University. Paarlberg is also an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. and a regular contributor to the Guardian. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Georgetown University, and researches diaspora politics, transnational elections, and immigrant communities in the U.S. and Latin America. Paarlberg’s fieldwork has been in Mexico, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic. In his talk, Paarlberg will focus on the politics of the Mexican diaspora: how Mexicans in the U.S. affect politics in Mexico and how Mexican politicians and parties seek the support of Mexicans in the U.S. Time permitting, he will also address a little about how the current situation of crime and cartels affects immigration.

Richard Leventhal, University of Pennsylvania (PA/Seminar Room)
Richard Leventhal is a professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, the Executive Director of the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, and he is one of the Directors of the Tihosuco Heritage Preservation and Community Development Project focused upon the 19th century Caste War rebellion in the Yucatan. Leventhal has written extensively about the ancient Maya, cultural heritage preservation, and the ways cultural preservation can be utilized as a means of political resistance. In his talk, Maya Cultural Heritage: Rethinking how the past connects to the present (and the future), Leventhal will address the contradiction that the Maya area of Mesoamerica has been the focus of archaeological work for the past 150 years, and our knowledge of the ancient world has been dramatically increased with this research. But a similar statement cannot be made about the impact of archaeological and ethnographic research upon the modern Maya people. Leventhal will discuss the modern history of indigenous groups in Mexico, a history that unfortunately includes discrimination and economic exploitation, in part because they have never been able to control the representation of their own culture nor even the ancient sites of their ancestors, which today generate significant tourist income for the state of Mexico. Leventhal will also discuss his work in an ongoing project with the Maya community of Tihosuco (Quintana Roo, Mexico), in which they are framing a very different, and perhaps subversive, heritage story of the past.

Gabriel Salgado, University of Pennsylvania (Library)
Gabriel Salgado is a doctoral student in Political Science at the uNiversity of Pennsylvania. His research interests include race and national identity in 20th century Mexico, as well as issues of time and memory in magical realist literature. In his talk, What is a Mexican?, Salgado will explore the history of how people have defined Mexican identity in relation to race. Throughout the twentieth century, one's racial designation had serious consequences for the rights and privileges they could enjoy. Covering events in both the United States and Mexico, he will discuss how people have attempted to answer the question of where Mexicans fit in various systems of racial classification.

Ericka Beckman, University of Pennsylvania (201)
Ericka Beckman is the Associate Professor of Romance Languages and the Graduate Chair in Hispanic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Beckman’s research focuses primarily on narratives of capitalist modernity and modernization in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Latin America, or in other words, how Latin American literature is related to Latin American economies and how both have been influenced by colonialism and continue to be influenced by neo-colonialism.


Monday (1/22/18)
10:20 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.
Speakers Series Candy
Gonzalez, U Arts, Ben Miller, Barbacoa Restaurant, Carlos Torres, Mexican Consulate Ivette Compean, Mexican Cultural Center Michelle Angela Ortiz, Artist Arthur Schmidt, U Penn Ch’uya Lane ‘93

11:45 a.m. - 12:45 p.m.
Personal Stories
Candy Gonzalez C Torres/I Compean Ch’uya Lane ‘93 Isabel Diaz Alanis, Author Gretel Cuevas Verdín

Tuesday (1/23/18)
8:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.
Immigration panel with Q&A

Vleidmy R. Velarde, HIAS Karenina Wolf, Esq. Jeff Gammage, Inquirer

Wednesday (1/24/18)
8:00 a.m. - 8:20 a.m.

Theatre Nick Nehez: Intro to Mexican film
8:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
Film: El Norte

Thursday (1/25/18)
8:50 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
Speaker Series

Michael Paarlberg, U Penn Richard Leventhal, Archeology Museum Gabriel Salgado, U Penn

Friday (1/26/18)
1:40 p.m.

Theatre Presentations & Performances