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Mexico Migrahack Influences Journalism, Nonprofit Work and Collaborations
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Mexico Migrahack Influences Journalism, Nonprofit Work and Collaborations

More than four months have passed since Mexico Migrahack, and the impact of the frenzied, fun-filled weekend is still being felt. We’ve talked to many participants representing the diversity of the event, from journalists to nonprofit leaders, to data analysts and programmers. Here’s a summary of how Migrahack has influenced them and their work:

The projects produced during the hackathon weekend continue to be shared and used to educate others about immigration issues.

A Migrahack project about child migrants in Mexican detention centers received renewed attention and retweets on social media during the summer, when the issue of child migrants arriving in the United States made international headlines.

Retained Belongings, a project about how authorities ignore the rights of deportees to their belongings, is being used by Programa de Defensa a Incidencia Binacional (Binational Program for the Defense of Migrants) to promote awareness of the issue among migrant assistance groups.

Where to Now? — an animation video to help deported women so they do not lose custody of their children — is featured on the website of the Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración (Institute for Women in Migration). The nonprofit is using the project as an educational tool for its clients, migrant women.

More journalists and nonprofits better understand the value of data and data visualization in stories about immigration and are using the tools in their work.

Irving Huerta, a reporter for MVS Radio, said he used tools that he learned at Migrahack, such as Tableau and Moov.ly, to create a video about the increased budget for Mexico’s intelligence agency, which was broadcast in August.

Mónica González, a photojournalist with Colectivo Sacbé, said that she used her new skills on data animation to create a video that explains through a timeline the impact of violence in a specific region. “We’re convinced that the Internet is a very powerful visualization tool that allows us to chronicle what is happening in Mexico,” she said. “Migrahack allowed us to find a different vision, a new way to share our journalism.”

Cesia Chavarria of Asamblea Popular de Familias Migrantes (Popular Assembly of Migrant Families) said: “Above all, we learned that in order to generate more interest in our work as nonprofit institutions, we need to not just tell stories, but also use data that entertains and informs at the same time.”

Rodrigo Soberanes, a contributor to the Associated Press in Veracruz, said: “At Migrahack, I learned to pay more attention to different migration processes. We tend to focus more on the movement of people via cargo trains from Central America, but the data points to a lot more ways for people to migrate.”

Angeles Mariscal, a journalist and co-founder of the news portal Chiapas Paralelo, said: “The most useful tools I learned at Migrahack were map visualization and infographics. I’ve been sharing what I learned since; in fact, we’re using those same tools at Chiapas Paralelo now to create a project about forced displacements.”

Collaborations are continuing between journalists, nonprofits and programmers.

Mago Torres, a professor at Iberoamericana University in Mexico City and a leader in the journalists group Periodistas de a Pie, traveled to Chicago in May to give talks about access to information in Mexico. She was invited by the Supreme Chi-Town Coding Crew and Free Geek Chicago, groups led by David Eads, a Migrahack mentor and news application developer for NPR.

In turn, Eads traveled to Mexico City in August to work with Periodistas de a Pie members. They have started building Geografia del Dolor (Geography of Pain), a documentary website about migrants who died and what they left behind. Eads helped fix bugs and add functionality to an existing Periodistas de a Pie project, En el Camino (On the Road), about migrant journeys.

Eads and Periodistas de a Pie members also are continuing to work on More than 72, their project from Migrahack about the botched investigations of migrant deaths. They plan to add more data mapping and sections to the site. Eads is returning to Mexico in the fall.

“It’s incredibly important for journalists from the United States to see and contribute to the great work that’s being done in a very difficult context,” said Eads, commenting on the value of meeting Mexican counterparts. “It’s important for technologists to see and contribute to the creative uses of online media born of necessity in covering immigration on both sides of the border. Migrahack is valuable because it brings together a more diverse and interesting group of collaborators than any other hackathon I’ve attended, and the results are better than any other hackathon I’ve attended.”

Iván Castaneira, a photographer with Colectivo Sacbé and member of Periodistas de a Pie, said working with Eads and other programmers was invaluable. He said he “learned how to better communicate with programmers — to know how to conceive and spell out an interactive, visually-rich project.”

Miriam González of Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración said that the nonprofit would continue to join forces with other groups as well as journalists to include more infographics and digital storytelling methods in its work: “Without a doubt, Migrahack exposed me to some tech programs that will help us, as an organization, to diversify the way in which we share our work and findings. But the event also introduced us to very creative people, potential collaborators, who have a better handle on technology than we do,” she said.

Miguel Angel Díaz, a documentary filmmaker and co-founder of Plumas Libres, a news web portal, said that his video production company is working on a documentary inspired by the Childhood Denied, Rights Denied project: “Our collaboration with the human rights center Fray Matías de Córdova will continue to grow,” he said.

Mariscal, of the Chiapas Paralelo news portal, said she’s now convinced that being part of multidisciplinary teams is the key to a successful storytelling project. “This discovery was a big paradigm shift for me because sometimes us journalists think no one else can relate to our work or our mission — this is a fallacy,” she said. “The whole point is that our talents are spread and we can do powerful work together.”

Interviews were conducted by Ruxandra Guidi, a freelance journalist and a 2013 IJJ journalism fellow. If you were a Mexico Migrahack participant and would like to share how the experience impacted your work, please contact her at ru@fonografiacollective.com.

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