Category: International Studies

‘Invisible Graves’ focus of speech

‘Invisible Graves’ focus of speech

By Andrea Martinez
Bridge contributing writer
Published March 30, 2020

Near the U.S.-Mexico border, there are high numbers of unknown dead migrants. These migrants are buried in trash bags in forgotten unmarked graves.

Professor Kate Spradley, a forensic anthropologist at Texas State University, presented “Invisible Graves: Migrant Deaths in the Texas Desert” at TAMIU. She quoted Sheriff Martinez of Brooks County, Texas, “For every person found, there are at least five that are not found.”

Spradley said Brooks County is recognized as “Death Valley” for all the migrants passing through. It is a little further from the border; however, it bears the highest migrant death toll for Texas border towns since 2009. They bury the unknown migrants in the Sacred Heart Burial Park. Most were found in trash bags—about 12 migrants in one grave. They were also buried along with personal belongings and trash.

“Until 2013, people were buried and forgotten in unmarked graves in Brooks County,” Spradley said.

She said Arizona’s medical examiner tries to identify the victims and contact each family. In Webb County, there is a medical examiner; however, they also try to help six other counties in this assessment, making the work more difficult.

One of the other counties the medical examiner takes care of is Cameron and Willacy counties. Spradley investigated the site with her students and they found that when they were told they would find 31 buried bodies, they found up to 70 instead.

In Cameron and Willacy counties, they have paupers’ graves, along with migrants, buried in the middle of nowhere. Paupers are people who died and could not afford proper funerals; however, they lived in the U.S. and likely died of natural causes. Spradley said her team could tell the difference because of the way they are buried. Migrants are kind of just thrown into trash bags with their personal belongings and maybe some trash. Paupers’ graves, on the other hand, are buried with a certain position and are placed more carefully.

When she removed personal belongings found in the graves, she and her team washed them and tried to see if there was anything to help identify the body.

“People carry a variety of things with them when they migrate,” Spradley said. “Personal effects are key for family.”

She mentioned a story of a migrant who died and his sister recognized his shoes and that is how she was able to place a name on the recovered body.

“What about the unidentified bodies that were cremated and the ashes were mishandled?” history major Joshua Grajeda asked Spradley during a Q&A, following her presentation.

“Texas Court of Federal Procedures … you are not allowed to cremate unidentified remains but about five years ago in the health and safety code, they put in there that you can … when approved by a county judge,” Spradley responded.


Studying abroad gains experience

Student describes study abroad experience

By Shelley Rodriguez
Bridge Staff Writer
Published March 30, 2020

Attracted to its affordability, relevance to her major and lo-cation, one student was convinced a study abroad to Azerbaijan was the trip for her.

Texas A&M International University engineering major Denisse Campos expected this summer 2019 journey to be the trip of a lifetime.

“I was grateful for the first half,” Campos said.

At first, she enjoyed being in a different part of the world. After all, Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, was nothing like Campos’ home country.

“[Being a tourist] was pretty nice … the architecture was so modern … a lot of the buildings were unique and you don’t get to see that a lot here in the United States,” she said.

Shelley Rodriguez | Bridge
TAMIU engineering major Denisse Campos poses for a photograph. Campos went to Azerbaijan.

However, the wonder faded later in the trip. Campos said a week of false accusations, high tension and busy work were on her list of reasons to dislike her experience.

“Yeah, there was drama,” she said. Referencing an incident when the event coordinator called the group out for being distracted during one of the meetings. “We didn’t like the event coordinator; we just weren’t on the same page after that.”

The weekend after did not serve as relaxation to the students, she said, due to an excursion to a village five hours away.

“We all just wanted to stay in the hotel because you’re just re-ally tired at this point, like, a week of meetings with no breaks … but we can’t refuse [the school]. We have to go.”

At first, the excursion began the same way as the study abroad trip. This left Campos in awe of the views she had of her new surroundings. She thought to herself, “[I] could live here forever.”

On the second day of the excursion, an accident occurred that would stay with Campos to this day.

“It was the worst way you could experience a study abroad trip,” Campos recalled.

While going to visit the historic palace of Sheki, strong winds caused one of the massive tree branches of a nearly 500-year-old Oriental plane, or Old World sycamore, tree to come down on 19 tourists visiting that day.

“[The breaking branch] was really loud, everyone turned their heads to see where it came from,” Campos said. “Then you just hear multiple cracks happen at the same time and then you see … this huge branch coming down, falling … I knew there were people around that tree.”

Immediately knowing the intensity of the situation, Campos believed she had no choice but to flee the scene for her safety. As she did, she only stopped to wait for her study-abroad classmates.

“I hear a lot of people running, a lot of people screaming … and it was just pure chaos.”

The coordinator listened to the students and they went back to the city, back to their hotel and were given a day to rest.


Machu Picchu: Study abroad students learn travel photography

Machu Picchu

Study abroad students learn travel photography

By Erick Barrientos
Managing Editor
Published March 30, 2020

From Cusco to Machu Picchu, TAMIU students embarked on a journey to capture images of the vibrant country of Peru.

This previous wintermester, Jan. 3–19, the Study Abroad program hosted a trip to Peru as part of the Travel Photography class led by Assistant Professional Thomas R. Brown.

Students in the class visited and photographed many of the unique and historic places, such as the Maras Salt Mines, Sacsayhuaman Inca Fortress and the Andean Artisanal Market.

Senior Yulissa Diaz, who attended her first study abroad, said the experience wracked her nerves at first, due to the preparation involved, but getting to the country left her in awe.

“I didn’t want to put high expectations on this trip because it was my first time on a plane, my first time abroad,” Diaz said. “I literally got my passport weeks before leaving. “[Once we touched down] in Peru, it was amazing. We got treated very well, we got taken care of very well. Every place we would go to was genuinely breathtaking … I really wish we had more time to be over there.”

Senior art major Christian Terrazas appreciated this trip because it gave him the opportunity to travel and take a class that contributes toward his degree, because most times these pro-grams do not cater to art majors; this program offered communication and arts course credit.

“From the moment I got off the plane, everything was beautiful,” Terrazas said. “You really have to separate from the group, go on a walk by yourself and sit down somewhere to take it all in. Peru is such a stunning place, it’s something that none of our pictures will do justice to.”

During the two-week trip, students were tasked with creating a photo story, a way for photographers to narrate a story in a series of photographs, and Diaz said in many ways, her homestay mom influenced her topic’s decision.

“Being there with our homestay, my homestay mom, I got to eat dinner with her and watch Mexican [tele]novellas there were coming up on a Peruvian TV,” she said. “That was pretty amazing. We were bonding over little stuff like that—stuff I grew up with.

“[That inspired me] to do my photo story on the Peruvian ladies [who] weave. I really wanted to show how hardworking and talented they all are because it reminded me of my childhood where my mom and grandma would teach me how to sow.”


Twice as nice: Pelosi returns to Gateway City

Twice as nice

Pelosi returns to Gateway City

By Angela Carranza
Bridge Staff Writer
and Reuben Rodriguez
Bridge Circulation Manager
Published March 30, 2020

Returning for a second year, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., attended WBCA’s International Bridge Ceremony on the U.S.-Mexico border.

On Feb. 22, Pelosi; Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., stood at the border.

Jessica Rodriguez | Bridge
Three U.S. House of Representatives members participate during the International Bridge Ceremony on Feb. 22 on the U.S.-Mexico border. From left: law enforcement officers, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., listen to the National Anthem.

Cuellar began the event by welcoming attendees during a ceremonial breakfast at La Posada ballroom where he spoke on the importance of U.S.-Mexico trade through Laredo.

“Our trains carry 55 percent of all the trade between the U.S. and Mexico,” Cuellar said. “If you look at all the trucks that pass from El Paso to Brownsville, compared to Laredo, Laredo still does 51 percent of all the trades that pass. We’re No. 1 in trucks, No. 1 in trains here in Laredo and No. 1 in buses.”

With a symbolic ceremony on Feb. 21, Kansas City Southern announced a second train bridge will be built on the border. This addition is expected to relieve traffic throughout the city and in-crease trade flow.

Hoyer spoke briefly then Cuellar introduced Pelosi.

“Here is someone [who] understands that in our area we [would] rather have bridges than walls because we know that the Rio Grande does not divide us but actually unites us together,” Cueller introduced Pelosi to the crowd.

The attendees gave Pelosi a South Texas welcome as she took the podium.

“I want to take a moment to thank Henry Cuellar, who has been such a champion for making sure we all know that this has been one community with the border going through it,” she began. “The relationship between Mexico and the United States is an important one to better our country.”

Jessica Rodriguez | Bridge
Pelosi wears a “Sra. Internacional 2020” sash during the International Bridge Ceremony.

The speaker then acknowledged Laredo’s patriotism with its celebration of George Washington.

“This community is the most patriotic place,” she said. “No place in America [are] George Washington and Martha Washing-ton honored so well, beautifully and faithfully other than in this area.”

Before proceeding to the International Bridge Ceremony, Pelosi gave a closing remark, “Thank you all for being who you are.”

She left the ballroom and met with the two Abrazo children representing the U.S.: Natalia Aileen Santos and Oscar Omar Martinez III. They marched onto the Lincoln-Juarez International Bridge where the annual Abrazo Ceremony takes place.

“On behalf of the United States Congress, it is an honor to join with leaders from the United States and Mexico for the 123rd Washington Birthday Celebration,” Pelosi told the crowd.

“You are a champion for [the] U.S.-Mexico partnership, helping cultivate our strong economic cultural ties that deliver progress for all American people.”

Pelosi then praised Cuellar for the societal impact ushered during his tenure representing the 28th District of Texas.

“You were right there on the forefront—relentless and persistent to make sure that we would pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement,” she said. “Making sure that, when we did so, we would do so with respect for our neighbor of Mexico, our neighbor Canada and our workers in all three of our countries, [plus] stay true to our values as Americans, wanting to make sure that those values were felt by our neighbors.

“This wonderful event celebrates our countries’ close bonds, and close tradition and it embodies the diversity that strengthens our communities. The Abrazo Ceremony symbolizes the goodwill and affection that is the U.S.-Mexico friendship.”

It is her second year attending the annual Abrazo Ceremony. This event of unity came as Cuellar prepared for a race for his seat in the House.

“We in Congress, with our largest-ever Hispanic Caucus, feel that every day we are engaged with an ‘abrazo’ in our hemisphere,” Cuellar said. “Not just with Mexico but with the entire hemisphere and so many representatives of other countries are here today in friendship.”


Language professors bring a world of knowledge to students

For some students, learning a foreign language can be an exciting endeavor and an opportunity to broaden their knowledge of other cultures. For others, it can be a daunting task filled with anxiety and frustration. The language faculty at Texas A&M International University includes several dedicated and patient instructors, including Julien and Melody Carrière, assistant professors of French and Italian. Continue reading “Language professors bring a world of knowledge to students”

Summer In London: Benito Bondoc and Jessica Verastigui

Over the summer, TAMIU students continued to study and represent the university in various locations across the globe. Two of these students, Benito Bondoc and Jessica Verastigui, had the opportunity to study abroad in London, England, during Summer Session I. Continue reading “Summer In London: Benito Bondoc and Jessica Verastigui”

Paying It Forward with Project Pengyou

By Soledad Olmeda From January 27th to February 2nd, Project Pengyou hosted an event for chapters across the nation to celebrate Chinese New Year by paying it forward. This event was called Pay It Forward on Chinese New Year (PIFOCNY) and the purpose was for each respective chapter to “adopt” a school in their community and inspire children to learn about China. The ultimate goal of PIFOCNY is to teach kids to become aware of other cultures, and to teach empathy and respect to them at a young age.   Continue reading “Paying It Forward with Project Pengyou”

The World Can Be A Classroom

We are past the time where only the rich were given the opportunity to travel overseas. Every day, there are new people starting blogs and displaying inspiring photos of their adventures far away from home.  Young people look at these postings, sighing at their own lack of luck, without realizing it can be more than just wishful thinking. Continue reading “The World Can Be A Classroom”

Chile: Opportunities for Recent Graduates

The era of being confined to your hometown is long gone— the average American will move five times in their lifetime. With the advance of technology, our world keeps getting smaller and smaller; young adults look now further than their own countries for their next home. Continue reading “Chile: Opportunities for Recent Graduates”

From Australia to TAMIU

By Lina Garcia Egyptian parents, Australian nationality, multicultural understanding and values, and now a TAMIU engineering student. Daniel Rafael was born in Perth, Western Australia, where he attended Curtin University before moving to Laredo, Texas and enrolling at Texas A&M International University.   Continue reading “From Australia to TAMIU”