On Monday, Oct. 26, the University of Dallas hosted the Fourth Annual Porres Lecture, “The Border Disruption” with the Dallas Morning News (DMN) Mexico City Bureau Chief, prestigious journalist Alfredo Corchado.
Sponsored by the Office of the President, the Office of Student Affairs, the Human and Social Sciences Department and the Modern Languages Department, this lecture highlighted a personal connection to the border which resonated with listeners.
“We bring a speaker from outside of UD into our community and encourage the wider public to attend,” Dr. Mark Petersen, associate professor of history, wrote in an email. “In this way, we hope to heighten UD’s reputation as a place where thoughtful conversation about Latin America and Latin American communities in the United States takes place.”
Over 80 attendees listened on Zoom to Corchado’s description of his unconventional entry into journalism, his dedication to news coverage in Mexico, and the obstacles he has faced during his internationally-renowned career.
Corchado’s coming-of-age story in the fields of California during Cesar Chavez’s social movements for farmers’ rights helped me develop hope for my own career pathway as a first-generation student.
I was shocked to hear about his atypical acceptance of a position with the Wall Street Journal, which required him to move to Philadelphia. His relationship with his family and Mexican heritage was so strong, however, that he eventually returned to Texas and Mexico to work with the DMN.
An editor from the Wall Street Journal had traveled to Corchado’s hometown in hopes of recruiting him for the job. Corchado begged his mother not to let him go. Straight out of high school with such potential, he felt the duty to stay home and be a role model for his siblings. To his surprise, when the editor came to his house for dinner that night, his mother said, “take him.”
I’ve felt that sometimes taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone can not only be uncomfortable, but also intimidating. As students, we aspire to become better people each and every day at the cost of small sacrifices toward a greater goal. As I walked in Corchado’s shoes during the Porres Lecture, I felt the weights he had to carry to achieve his goals. I felt the fear that can be brought from leaving everything behind for a better life.
As he spoke about his goals as a teenager, such as simply owning a car, I could relate to the challenges I’ve had to overcome as a first-generation student. But most importantly, Corchado’s story taught me that I am equally allowed to belong and participate in the two traditions I grew up in: Mexican and American.
His mission as a journalist is “to try to educate both countries about holding things together.” In the world we are living in right now, I believe we are in the ideal time to learn about our neighbors and the stories that create their identities.
Dr. Janet Hendrickson of the Spanish department reflected on the surprising “normalcy” of the southern border, which she experienced as a UD undergraduate when she visited a friend in Matamoros, Mexico, for Thanksgiving. She realized that the border was simply home for many people, and she even crossed back to the US to go to the mall over break.
“The place we sometimes call the border is a space of absolute familiarity, ordinariness, even centrality, just like everywhere else can be,” she wrote in an email. “The Mexico-US border, and more precisely, the Mexico-Texas border, is a place that is culturally distinct, and at the same time, ‘the border,’ as a geographical region, is not separate from the many places that comprise it.”
However, Hendrickson wrote that the border can be “a unique point of inflection for our national priorities” with politics, especially with humanitarian crises. “Mr. Corchado’s journalistic work reminds us that inquiry into truth includes, even requires, investigation of fact. It also reminds us that attention to our fellow humans—not just the powerful, but common, ordinary people—can reveal the larger forces that govern our lives.”
Petersen explained that the Porres Lecture series and the Latin American Studies concentration both feature “a desire to foster informed examination and conversation about the relationship between Latin America and the Western and Catholic traditions.”
“We aim to provide an opportunity for the community at UD and beyond to encounter these topics and voices in a way that inspires the intellect as well as the heart and soul,” he continued. “For that reason, we invite a range of speakers who can share not only their expertise in a particular topic, but also personal stories of encounter, growth, and inspiration.”
Dr. Carla Pezzia, associate professor of human and social sciences and director of the Latin American Studies concentration, had tried to bring Corchado to speak at UD for years.
“We knew that his years of experience as a journalist covering U.S.-Mexico relations would result in a wonderful speaking event and make him a great resource for UD students,” she wrote in an email. “Mr. Corchado was eager to speak at UD. He knew the university and has worked with several of our students at the Dallas Morning News.”
Despite his willingness, they struggled to find “a time and funding to make it happen,” according to Pezzia. “The pandemic in some ways helped everything fall into place.”
Pezzia noted that the lecture series is named after St. Martín de Porres, “the patron saint of social justice and racial harmony.”
“A mulato (mixed European and African heritage) in colonial Peru, St. Martin de Porres dedicated his life to service to God and to his community despite the many challenges he faced due to the color of his skin,” Petersen explained. “His example inspired many in his day and continues to inspire people throughout Latin American and beyond.”
Corchado’s witness to UD, as well as the continuation of the Porres lecture series in the future, is a source of inspiration to our community even in divisive times.
Gwendolyn Loop contributed to this article.