On Friday, the Periclean Scholars at Elon University held an event to launch the book Aquí & Allá/Here and There. Campus and community members gathered as author Blanca Zendejas Nienhaus and others who had connections to the book spoke.
At the event, Blanca gave a brief overview of the book and noted its association with the Periclean Scholars class of 2013.
Elon’s Periclean Scholars program is a part of Project Pericles, a national non-profit organization that encourages colleges and universities to prepare students for global citizenship. At Elon, the Periclean Scholars program consists of civic engagement courses that culminate in a class project, which focuses on combating an issue somewhere in the world.
The Periclean Scholars class of 2013 identified health concerns in Chiapas, a state in Southern Mexico. Blanca and her husband Brian Nienhaus, assistant professor of management and mentor for the Periclean Scholars class of 2013, guided the class through its project locally and in Mexico.
“The class of 2013 wanted to partner with Mexico, and it wanted to partner with Chiapas,” said Thomas Arcaro, professor of sociology and director of the Periclean Scholars program at Elon. “And the end product was so much more bountiful than anyone could have imagined.”
In the book, the author tells the childhood story of Trucila Perez, who immigrated to North Carolina from Chiapas so that her family could reunite.
Perez is unnamed in the book, but she spoke at the book launch. She thanked her mother, also present at the launch, for bringing her to the United States.
“I never dreamed in my life that I would be a part of a book,” Perez said. “I never thought that I would come to this country and be able to do something like drive a car, own a cell phone.”
Perez graduated from Blanca’s community program, Plaza Comunitaria. The program offers educational services to Mexican immigrants in Alamance County, N.C.
While 50 percent of the proceeds from the book go to Blanca, the other half supports the Hogares Sanos Project, a community health initiative started by the Periclean Scholars class of 2013 that serves the Latino population of Burlington, N.C.
Blanca explained the role that she and her husband had in the Periclean Scholars project.
“I think that for the first time the Periclean Scholars were put in a position to realize that they were surrounded by a large Hispanic community,” Blanca said.
Thomas Price, a member of the Periclean Scholars class of 2013, agreed.
“Blanca was already involved in the community in a number of ways,” he said. “It was through her and her husband that we really understood the challenges of immigrants in Alamance County.”
At the event, Javier Diaz de Leon, the consul general of the Mexican Consulate in Raleigh, N.C., briefly described Blanca’s success.
“She must be proud of where she is and where she comes from,” Leon said. “She is also part of this community. She’s Mexican, but she’s also a Carolinan. Being in the Carolinas means being part of a diverse, multiethnic community.”
The book is separated into Spanish and English sections so that people from both Mexico and the United States can read it. Brian was translator for the English portion and translated speeches at the event.
Copies of Aquí & Allá/Here and There were available for purchase at the launch. The book is on Amazon and may come to the Elon bookstore in the future.
Price, who knew about the book from its early stages, said that the book launch was impactful.
“It was really moving and impressive to see how far the idea and story have progressed,” he said. “I am very excited to read this.”