Celebrating Culture within a Community
Teresa Vivar is a leading voice in strengthening Mexican-Americans' engagement in civic matters of New Brunswick and their awareness of their own heritage. Teresa Vivar studied Business at Middlesex County College and later Management at Rutgers where she got to know the recently established Mexican immigrant community in the area first hand. In 2005, Vivar started Lazos America Unida - “the American ties that bind” - where she now conducts community-based research and creates volunteer opportunities in order to strengthen the presence of the Mexican community in New Brunswick. According to the 2010 census, 49.93% of New Brunswick’s total population claims Hispanic or Latino origin. Since the U.S. Census in 2000, New Jersey’s Mexican population has grown tremendously, by nearly 40%, with a total of 115,000 people - not counting undocumented members - claiming this identity. Vivar not only wants the Mexican community, especially the youth, to have strong ties to their heritage, but to also be active citizens who feel included in the city’s community.
At the Rutgers Business School, Teresa Vivar held the first Mexican-American conference in New Jersey. The conference’s purpose was to demonstrate the importance of diversity among the Mexican community, and it raised key points relating to immigration, education, health, economic development, arts, and culture. Vivar specifically addressed the Mexican population that originates from Oaxaca, Mexico, which is also her native region. She points out that children are not sticking to their Mexican culture due to their diverse group of peers, whereas their parents tend to not mingle with other ethnic groups in the same fashion. Vivar interprets that the struggles of Mexican American youths as an “in-between generation,” who feel marginalized as a minority group while at the same time possessing a strong need to belong. Vivar is concerned with instilling cultural pride in those who have little to no memory of Mexico. Furthermore, Vivar wants to give Mexican- Americans a political voice in the New Brunswick community. By giving them a voice, Vivar hopes that the youth will develop leadership and communication skills that can better serve the community and drive the growing population to feel more included within New Brunswick. Here we see the Rutgers academic community join together with non-university affiliated members of New Brunswick, to create a more inclusive, united populace. Teresa Vivar has been an important bridge in this regard.