During the 10th Annual Peace and Social Justice Symposium on Saturday, Tom Hansen, International Education Director of the Mexico Solidarity Network, introduced the Keynote Speaker, Priscilla Ruiz Guillen, and provided consecutive translation for the audience. Guillen and Hansen both attended school in Mexico together. As one of Fray Bartolome’s attorneys, Guillen discussed her organization’s significant work accompanying indigenous communities and her struggles against paramilitary violence in Chiapas, Mexico.
Guillen spoke about the National Indigenous Congress and its involvement in the Human Rights movement. “In South Mexico, a variety of indigenous groups came together to create a movement,” Guillen said. With lack of health care and quality education, the National Indigenous Congress began to make demands on Mexico for rights.
Over time, violence proceeded in three massacres in different areas of Mexico. “There are 45 deaths still unprosecuted from the massacres today,” Guillen said. The federal government finally became involved in the movement once the violence reached an all-time high for the country.
Community members began constructing their own self-government, with chosen leaders of the community to support health care, community development projects, and better paid incomes.
Hydroelectric dams were built for community development to ensure safety from ongoing flooding problems. The community was relocated and residents were promised housing, hospitals and schools after the renovations.
“Electricity from the hydroelectric dams were not for indigenous communities,” Guillen said. The government ignored their promises with no reimbursements or quality care to the community. “The government said it was their problem … to pay their own bills.”
Women began to stand up for their rights during this decline in payments and arrests. Women progressed by setting up meetings with government officials for change. Their voices were heard and have carried on since the initial movement.
Through the many struggles faced by leaders and other community members, the National Indigenous Congress continues to defend indigenous communities under attack and other cases in court.
Because of Guillen’s experience, she is able to tell her story and enlighten others about the reoccurring problems in Mexico, inspiring people to fight for their rights.
Students and Valpo community members greeted her speech with questions and words of encouragement for her accomplishments thus far. Guillen continues to fight for human rights with her colleagues at the Fray Bartolome Center.
The symposium’s events included sessions led by Valpo students to discuss this year’s theme.
Valparaiso University has welcomed new Assistant Dean of Students for First-Year Students and Commuter Programs Bonnie Dahlke to the campus community.
Dahlke will be directing initiatives related to first-year undergraduate orientation and building comprehensive services for commuter students. She will also be taking leadership of the summer FOCUS orientation program for new students, fall FOCUS, and the January orientation program.
“The FOCUS orientation program has consistently received enthusiastic praise from its participants. Bonnie will continue to identify and implement the best practices in orientation programs nationally, so that our own orientation programs will continue to meet the needs of participants and the institution going forward,” said Tim Jenkins, Dean of Students.
Dahlke worked for seven years in the student affairs department at Central College in Pella, Iowa. At Central College, she oversaw student activities, orientation and student union operations.
She attended Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in organizational management and music, and her master’s degree in educational psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Throughout her undergraduate and graduate schooling, she worked as an admission counselor and assistant for the office of student organizations.
“We are fortunate to have such an experienced professional join our community in this capacity,” Jenkins said.
“I was so impressed with the people I interacted with during the interviewing process and continue to be impressed by the new people I meet every day,” Dahlke said. “I am very excited to be working with my student life colleagues to design a space in the Union for commuter students to call home.”
In her new position she hopes to help provide a “home base” for students and aid them if they ever have questions or need assistance. She is hoping to assist students in connecting to the University, whether it is through athletics, music, Greek life, clubs, organizations, student employment, or any other area.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know students and colleagues from all over campus,” Dahlke said.