Caption: Miriam feels most at home when surrounded by her family. Pictured here is Miriam, her parents (Lupe & Roberto) and her four brothers (Rica, Beto, Rigo & Lalo).
Miriam Magaña Lopez, MPH
Research and Policy Analyst
Migration is beautiful. I often reflect on how incredible it is that people can bring culture,
traditions, customs and food across borders. When I am eating at a delicious restaurant or
attending a street festival filled with joy, art, bright colors and lively music, I pause and I smile. I feel so fortunate that I can experience something so new to me without having to get on a
Although faced with resistance and the pressure to assimilate – we are able to form
communities and spaces that resemble a version of what feels like home. And sometimes we
chose to share who we are in a public way: through our food, art or cultural events.
I am an immigrant. I was born in Jalisco, Mexico. When I was five years old my parents, my
brothers and I immigrated to Sonoma, California. I grew up in a Spanish speaking household.
Navigating a new country and its systems was tough, but my family found solace in forming
community with neighbors. While Sonoma was not exactly Mexico, we found Mexican
ingredients for our cooking and a community that celebrated holidays in similar ways. I came
together with others over shared experiences, it felt like home.
When I graduated high school, I moved to St. Paul, Minnesota to attend Macalester College.
While I thought that college was fun and engaging, I struggled to find a community similar to
the one I had growing up. I was seeking to create a space where I felt at home – and held on to only what I knew: coming together over shared ethnic and cultural identity. I did not find it.
While tough, I am glad that I experienced this discomfort because in my search to find
community and acceptance I found connection with my peers in different ways. Although we
did not come together because we shared a cultural identity – our own unique cultural identity
became a connecting point. I found myself in spaces with people who wanted to learn more
about me. And I wanted to learn about them, too. People organized cultural events. We shared meals, music and the struggles faced by our respective communities; through this process we found similarities, too.
Culture is a huge part of who I am and how I view the world. To me, culture has served as a
powerful vessel to create spaces that feel like home and form community. And while there are
not always opportunities to come together through intentional dialogue, we’ve found ways to
publicly share a part of us. We’ve opened restaurants to share our food, we’ve created public
art through murals and graffiti, and we’ve organized community through cultural events. These public displays allow us to create home, and to celebrate and showcase parts of who we are. To me, that is beautiful.