Five ideas for building community through Welcoming Week: Lessons from Mexico

May 21, 2024

, Five ideas for building community through Welcoming Week: Lessons from Mexico

Read in Spanish / Leer en español

Like many countries, Mexico is welcoming more international migrants than ever before. Approximately 1.2 million immigrants lived in Mexico in 2020, which is nearly triple the number from 20 years ago.

Organizations and local governments across Mexico are working to create a positive narrative about the newcomers who are arriving in their country. Many mainstream narratives are outdated and position immigrants as a threat or risk. However, through new welcoming initiatives, organizations and individuals are challenging long-standing beliefs with messages that highlight the humanity, cultures, and contributions of newcomers that make communities stronger and more prosperous.

In 2023, Mexican organizations launched the first Welcoming Week in Latin America. Welcoming Week celebrates the actions of governments, civil society organizations, businesses, and individuals to create more welcoming communities. Every year, individuals and communities use Welcoming Week to proclaim and enact welcoming values through events and local initiatives that foster mutual understanding and belonging among immigrants and non-immigrants.

Sin Fronteras, a Mexico City-based NGO, partnered with Welcoming America to receive support in planning their first Welcoming Week events, including resources such as multilingual toolkits, technical assistance, and international peer connections to activate events and a national social media campaign.

Highlights of Welcoming Week Mexico 2023:

  • 27 events and activities hosted with over 1,000 participants
  • 3 cities: Mexico City, Tijuana, and Querétaro
  • Over 65,000 people reached through 222 social media posts
  • 9 organizations and local governments involved in designing welcoming events and activities, plus many more partners engaged in speaking at and attending events

“Creating spaces for dialogue between Mexicans and foreigners is more important than ever. We need to listen to each other and recognize ourselves as part of a community. We must strengthen the social fabric, and it will be very interesting to do so during our national holidays. Our celebration will showcase unity and cooperation, an open-door Mexican party,” said Tamara Aranda, the former Advocacy and Communications Coordinator at Sin Fronteras.

At a time of growth in the number and diversity of immigrants settling in Mexico, Welcoming Week came at a critical moment to build social cohesion and advance a positive public narrative of welcoming communities. 

Other countries and localities can learn from Mexico’s Welcoming Week activities. Use the following five takeaways to get inspired and plan your own events.

1. Connect Welcoming Week to core local values

Common values like family, health, and belonging unite people across countries and cultures. These ideas are at the core of Welcoming Week, but events that go beyond these typical values are a great way to make events unique to your community.

One of Sin Fronteras’ nine partner organizations, Programa Casa Refugiados, hosted several events that celebrated shared values, one of which was Reforestation Day.

Reforestation Day involved people from migrant shelters, public officials, and local community members. The event reflected a shared commitment to preserving the environment, demonstrating that collaboration can have a tangible effect on the health of our planet.

Members of the community planted trees, did yoga and meditation, and learned about important topics like the intersection of migration and urban planning and how bees benefit the environment. As a result of this do-it-together event, over 200 people participated and 450 native trees were planted.

Care for the environment was a central value uniting the neighbors that came together. Active participation of the local community combined with that of newcomers at the shelter was a key to this event’s success.

2. Bring together immigrants and non-immigrants

To create belonging, you have to start with connection. Bringing immigrants and non-immigrants together in a shared activity is the best way to break down barriers and plant the seeds for a more inclusive community.

Centro de Apoyo Marista al Migrante (CAMMI) took this approach when they designed their participatory mural event in El Marqués, Querétaro. Hosted over three days, this activity marked the first opening of the shelter to the broader non-migrant community, representing a significant change in CAMMI’s interaction with the community.

By painting the mural together, the activity allowed adults and children staying at the CAMMIcasa shelter to express themselves creatively through art and build an environment in which all people felt welcome and valued, regardless of their origin or immigration status.

A total of 40 people participated in the collective murals, including migrants, asylum seekers, the Querétaro community, and CAMMI staff. The participation of people from the community and the organization’s staff helped to strengthen ties between the migrant population and the local community.

Using Welcoming Week to unite these neighbors was a launching point for CAMMI’s new strategy to work hand in hand with the community to provide more effective care for migrants and to generate awareness, positive support, and a sense of belonging among CAMMI employees.

3. Honor and uplift cultures as a pathway for connection

Xochimilco is a borough of Mexico City that is emblematic of Mexican culture and history. Lined with canals and boasting a rich agricultural history, Xochimilco is a World Heritage site and home to the Indigenous Nahua peoples.

For newly arrived migrants, understanding and accessing the culture of Xochimilco is a challenge that Sin Fronteras and its partners wanted to confront. To do this, they hosted a Welcoming Week event titled “Show Your City: Visit to Xochimilco,” to bring 20 migrants to the borough to learn about and share in the local culture.

Sin Fronteras coordinated with the family-run business Agroturismo Tlazochihualpilli, which offers trajinera (small colorful boat maneuvered with a pole) tours, chinampas (small artificial islands built for agricultural purposes) workshops, food, and traditional ceremonies. During the trajinera ride, the guide offered a warm welcome, sharing bread, coffee, and tea, and highlighting the migrant origin of the first inhabitants of the region.

Many of the participating migrants came to Mexico City from Haiti. Food was a bridge that helped participants draw connections between the differences and similarities of Haitian and Mexican cultures. A meal was prepared with products from a chinampa and adapted to the Haitian diet, which helped them feel part of the activity.

At the end, a young Haitian participant highlighted the experience as the first one in which they felt fully included, mentioning that the day was “like being in Haiti.” The visit also allowed local people to learn more about Haitian culture, finding similarities between the traditions of both countries.

4. Use existing celebrations to unite long-time residents and newcomers

El Grito de Independencia (The Independence Cry) is a staple celebration of Mexican pride and culture that got its start during the Mexican War of Independence. Every year on the evening of September 15 — which falls during Welcoming Week — Mexicans kick off their Independence Day celebrations with El Grito de Independencia.

To capitalize on the excitement and celebrations happening around Independence Day, Programa Casa Refugiados participated in the ¡Grito Latino! Festival at the National Museum of Folk Cultures in Mexico City. By hosting an art and gastronomy fair, displaced people, migrants, and Mexicans were able to share in dance, songs, poetry, and their culinary traditions. An estimated 250 people visited the ¡Grito Latino! Festival and the accompanying art and gastronomy fair.

“These activities highlighted the importance we find in sharing experiences and recognizing that our similarities are vast, while our differences enrich our culture and serve as an opportunity to create a more inclusive future, together,” said the team at Programa Casa Refugiados.

At another event during Mexican Independence celebrations, the organization Asmovilidad worked to advance a message of interculturalism and protection of migrants in the state. They created the Intercultural and Inclusive Market, hosted outside of the State Congress. Vendors sold their products and participants enjoyed music and dancing.

, Five ideas for building community through Welcoming Week: Lessons from Mexico

This event created an important space for locals and newcomers to meet during the Mexican Independence Day commemorations. The event was well attended, with congressman Juan José Jiménez, President of the Migration Commission of the Congress of the State of Querétaro among the participants, which demonstrated Welcoming Week’s ability to engage local and regional governments.

5. Spread the word through allies, partnerships, and social media

Communicating public welcoming messages is important for sustaining inclusion efforts, and essential to showing newcomers and partners that they are valued community members. Sin Fronteras did an excellent job promoting and advancing the call for migrant inclusion across Mexico through traditional media outreach and online social networks.

Traditional media reach:

  • Sent 117 press releases
  • Sent 857 invitations to events and activities

Social media reach:

  • 57 Twitter posts reached 19,635 people
  • 77 Facebook posts reached 33,734 people
  • 86 Instagram posts reached 10,957
  • 2 TikTok videos received over 1,000 plays

This outreach helped the organization reach new audiences, and Sin Fronteras received numerous volunteer requests as a result of the buzz.

Welcoming Week in Mexico received a positive response among organizations and activists involved in migration and international protection. According to Sin Fronteras, using Welcoming Week as a campaign to promote “community values and a welcoming environment, free of xenophobia, racism, and discrimination,” during a time of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies was extremely valuable for advancing their mission.

Against the backdrop of ongoing media coverage about the so-called “migration crisis,” allies and partners saw these activities as necessary and urgent for building community and belonging. Across the highlighted activities and beyond, the community members who engaged in the first Welcoming Week in Mexico saw what is working well in migration and felt they could be part of this inclusive vision.

Get involved with Welcoming Week

Learn more about the takeaways of Welcoming Week Mexico. Watch this webinar recording to hear from event organizers in their own words:

Welcoming Week 2024 is September 13-22 and the theme is “We’re All In” (“Todos Unidos” in Spanish). Access our toolkit to learn more and plan your local event or initiative.

Get in touch with Allie Norman, to discuss Welcoming Week sponsorship in Mexico or beyond.

Translate »