By Jessika Harkay | Contributor
Alfredo Corchado – a high school dropout and migrant farm worker – said he never imagined that one day he would be a renowned journalist and celebrated author speaking to a packed auditorium at Baylor University.
Corchado’s journalistic career has focused on in-depth reporting about the US-Mexico border, drug cartels and immigration. An immigrant himself, Corchado used his experience of covering the border and his personal background to retell the difficulty of reconnecting to his roots in an entirely different culture and land in his second book titled “Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, and the Fate of the Great Mexican-American Migration.”
Corchado said he wrote “Homelands” hoping it would resonate with immigrants of all backgrounds as a way to encourage them to embrace both countries — “your original homeland and the one you live in now.”
“It was a way to serve as a bridge between two countries and to create and generate a deeper understanding between the two,” Corchado said. “Obviously being an immigrant makes you see America through a different lens. It creates a sense that you want to belong, and a question you always ask yourself is, ‘How am I going to fit in? What does it mean to be an American?’”
Baylor University’s Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media hosted the event. Corchado and “the love of his life” Angela Kocherga both spoke to students throughout the day. Kocherga is an Emmy-award winning multimedia journalist and, like Corchado, covers the U.S.-Mexico border and delves deeply into issues like immigration, trade and everyday life in Mexico. Kocherga joined him on-stage for the question and answer portion of the talk.
Corchado touched on his new book, which was recently released, telling a very personal journey of migration and delves into the struggles he sees immigrants face today, including the longing to fit in.
“I found it interesting to hear from someone who went through it,” Belleville, Ill., junior Lexi Donnel said. “I think there has to be a change in the system where it’s not too easy for people to get in, but then again it isn’t too hard. I know it’s hard. I know it’s really difficult to get into the United States. We need to make immigration more possible.”
Although Corchado spoke passionately about the border, he made it clear that there is a distinct difference between journalism and activism and how they cannot intertwine. He stressed that there are many inaccurate stories about the U.S.-Mexico border and encouraged students to read newspapers as a way to learn about issues that affect people on both sides of the border.
“I think it’s important for all of us to get outside of our bubbles and get outside of ourselves and understand the cultures that are all around us,” said J.B. Smith, the Waco Tribune-Herald managing editor who attended the talk. “I think it’s important to make that effort to get to know the world and get out of our comfort zone.”
After addressing other topics such as the power of storytelling, the infiltration of fake news and the future of journalism, Corchado gave the audience a final piece of advice.
“My call to action to you is simple,” Corchado said. “Whether you are Republican, Democrat, Independent or just a human being, it’s our obligation and our responsibility to rescue our stories, to inspire others by defining our narratives before others define us.”