The CUNY Mexican Studies Institute — the first center of its kind on the East Coast — will launch at Lehman College on Friday, May 11, with a major public conference of national significance, focusing on the health advantages and disadvantages experienced by this rapidly growing population. The community is invited to attend this free event, either in person or through its live webcast, and to join in the Institute’s work. Among those attending will be CUNY officials and other dignitaries.
As a further celebration, the Institute also anticipates sponsoring a cultural event in June, with more details forthcoming. For a listing of the full program for this academic launch and to register for the conference, visit www.lehman.edu/mexican-studies-conference. The conference will be webcast live on May 11 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at www.lehman.edu.
“Mexican immigrants arrive in the United States, on average, in better health than most Americans, and continue to enjoy better outcomes despite their difficulties in accessing healthcare,” said the Institute’s acting director, Dr. Alyshia Gálvez of Lehman’s Department of Latin American and Puerto Rican Studies, who has written extensively about issues affecting Mexican immigrants.
“But their children do not fare as well,” she added, noting that first-generation Mexicans begin to experience the same conditions that afflict the U.S. as a whole, such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, and by the second generation their health statistics become virtually identical. This phenomenon is known as the Immigrant Paradox and represents a relatively neglected area of research about Mexicans in the metropolitan region.
The conference, entitled “¡Salud! Beyond Deficits and Paradoxes in Mexican Immigration and Health,” will bring in nationally recognized experts on Mexican immigration and health, such as keynote speaker Dr. David Hayes-Bautista, director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the UCLA School of Medicine. Other experts from the University of Minnesota, the University of California at Berkeley, Rutgers University, SUNY Albany, and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee will join with faculty from The City University of New York for a variety of panels and discussions.
“The number of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in New York City, as of 2010, was close to 350,000 — and growing,” said Lehman President Ricardo R. Fernández, who will lead off the list of conference speakers. The Bronx is the site of the fastest-growing Mexican population in New York City, he noted, and nearly a quarter of all Mexicans in New York City live in the borough.
“Lehman College is proud to provide a home for this important CUNY initiative,” he said, “which will focus on both academics and service, providing a hub for research and advocacy projects throughout the University and the region.”
The formation of the institute builds on nearly a decade of work by the CUNY Working Task Force on Strengthening Educational Opportunities for the Mexican and Mexican-American Community, which held three conferences on Mexican immigration in New York City between 2006 and 2010. This conference will begin a dialogue, under the Institute’s auspices, between local and national scholars, as well as among academics, advocates and practitioners.
The Consul General of Mexico in New York noted that “this Institute will serve as an umbrella organization that will incorporate and expand the work of other segments of civil society, academia and the not-for-profit organizations working to support the Mexican community. We are very proud to partner with CUNY on this effort that will heighten the contribution that members of the Mexican community make to the great city of New York and also promote the educational achievement and advancement of our community.”
For the past several years, the Consul General’s office has funded scholarships for Mexican and Mexican-American students enrolled in CUNY. Most recently, a gift of $60,000 through the IME Becas (Instituto de Mexicanos en el Exterior) will enable as many as a dozen undergraduates to receive full-tuition scholarships for the next academic year.
“We at The City University of New York are particularly pleased that the academic launch of the CUNY Mexican Studies Institute is focused on health issues,” said Jay Hershenson, senior vice chancellor for University Relations and board secretary of The City University of New York. “CUNY is deeply committed to health education, research and careers for health professionals. This conference will provide a terrific opportunity to target pressing concerns and to examine potential solutions.”
The conference is cosponsored by the CUNY Working Task Force on Strengthening Educational Opportunities for the Mexican and Mexican-American Community, the Office of the President of Lehman College, the CUNY Institute for Health Equity, the Lehman Department of Latin American and Puerto Rican Studies and Mi Casa es Puebla.