ON THE SCENE: Global Festival celebrates recent immigrants

Marietta Brady of Peru (center) enjoys the Global Festival Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Elizabethtown Social Center. (Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

On Saturday, Oct. 1, Adirondack Friends of Refugees and Immigrants held a Global Festival at the Elizabethtown Community Center that welcomed and connected recent immigrants to our region. The event featured food, music, singing and storytelling under sunny skies, often punctuated by children’s laughter.

Attendees came from as far away as Costa Rica in Central America, Peru in South America and Zimbabwe in Africa. Some came for love, some for work, and some as perceived safe places during the pandemic. All love the accessibility to nature; some relish the four seasons, and some find the winter months tough to bear. One, Tanyaradzwa Pamberi, now living in Westport, who works as an acupuncturist and sells herbal medicines, delights in the safety of our woods.

“I compare this area to the Eastern highlands of Zimbabwe, the same kind of landscape, though different temperature, plants and animals, but of course not the same,” said Pamberi. “You don’t have animals like lions, hyenas and so many poisonous snakes that can kill you, but you have snow. I don’t like snow, but your forests are much safer. Also, no crocodiles in your rivers.”

All of us who live in the Adirondacks, New York State and throughout the nation are immigrants. For some, such as Native Americans, their ancestors arrived 10,000 to 20,000 years ago mainly by land or sea from Asia, spreading out to eventually our region along with Central and South America. More recently was the Spanish arriving late in the 15th century, then the English early in the 17th century, and the French around the same time, though they were in the region now known as Quebec. The Dutch arrived shortly after in New York as far north as Albany.

By the time the English, French and Dutch were initially exploring the Adirondacks, this region was already home to the Oneida and Mohawks, with the Algonquin-speaking Mahicans along the eastern side. The lumbering and mining industries brought in more diversity as newcomers largely had European roots. There were exceptions. In the mid 19th century, for example, abolitionist Gerrit Smith sought to establish a colony of free Blacks in the Adirondacks to provide them the right to vote through land ownership.

Jamie and Tanyaradzwa Barnard Pamberi enjoy the Global Festival Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Elizabethtown Social Center. (Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

Throughout our region’s history, there have also been efforts to block the most recent arrivals, as has been true in other areas throughout the state and nation; be the arrivals Irish potato farmers, German, Italian and Polish immigrants, Catholics and Jews. Recently, as is true in many other rural regions and fading industrial centers such as along the Erie Canal, there has been a shift toward welcoming immigrants to counter the increasing loss of populations and workforce to urban centers.

Even so, the welcome mat has not been open to all. People of Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Middle East have had a more challenging time of acceptance, not just in the Adirondacks but in many areas throughout our country. Here, Adirondack Friends of Refugees and Immigrants is one group that works hard to recruit and make all newcomers feel welcome, as well as assist those seeking not to stay here but pass on to Canada through the Roxham Road entry.

Adirondack Friends of Refugees and Immigrants is a designated ministry of St. John’s Church in Essex. It was founded in 2016 in response to the Syrian Refugee crisis. The Syrian war started in 2011 as peaceful protests as part of the Arab Spring spreading throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East. The Syrian protests were met by a brutal government response, resulting in militant uprisings. The increasing violence resulted in over 6.8 million people fleeing Syria.

“Our number one purpose is to raise awareness of refugee issues,” said Bob Harsh, one of the founders and leaders of the initiative. “We worked with vetted immigrants that come to our region through Burlington. We do events like the Global Fest and activities with Keene Valley Congregational Church to raise awareness and funds. As I believe God is incarnate in everyone, I believe we should serve and support everyone regardless of where they are from, the color of their skin, or any other perceived difference.”

One immigrant I met had never experienced racism until she and her mother, recently married to an American, moved to Milton, Massachusetts. Raised in Bolivia, Eliana Godoy grew up with a large, boisterous, fun-loving extended family, a family she missed greatly coming to the United States.

Monique Weston, a founder of Adirondack Friends of Refugees and Immigrants, Christina Granger and Irma Maldonado enjoy the Global Festival Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Elizabethtown Social Center. (Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

“Experiencing racism was the hardest and most difficult part of moving to the U.S., and it has not gone away by any means,” said Godoy, who now serves as the deputy director of Literacy, Inc. in New York City. “The immigrant experience is filled with resilience and feelings of hope. Many immigrants come here to open up businesses and create community; they bring so much wealth of culture and heritage to the U.S. and a willingness to work. The beautiful part is that I have not only been able to build community but also help build and create a better place in all the communities I have lived in. There are always immigrants. You find them everywhere, even here, who can be mentors and direct you to good causes, programs and people. That has been very beautiful.”

Now living in Wilmington, Godoy says she feels closer to Bolivia in the Adirondacks than anywhere else. She loves waking up and seeing the mountains and said that people have been very welcoming for the most part.

“I think with global warming and everything, having such access to nature is medicine for the heart,” said Godoy. “My family enjoys becoming rooted here and calling this place home.”

Christina Granger wanted to leave her home country of Costa Rica but couldn’t find any way of doing so. Unexpectedly, she met her now husband Eric, who brought her here, a region she hadn’t known about but has come to love, especially the experience of having four distinct seasons. Irma Maldonado came north because her husband Issac had a job offer cooking in Keene. Since then, she has developed a large following for her popular tamales available at many farmer’s markets.

Originally from Peru, Marietta Brady lives in New Russia. She first arrived in Lake Placid as a J1 student, got a tourist visa, and eventually became a resident. She volunteers time trying to help refugees heading to Canada by providing warm clothing, as so many are unprepared for the harsh winter climate.

“Coming here, I missed my family and community connections and the culture of my homeland,” said Brady. “But I have my own family now, and I can share my traditions with them. I try to help refugees heading for Canada as so many are unprepared for the harsh winter climate. Your winters are so much colder than Peru. Here, you have super arctic cold winters.”


(Naj Wikoff lives in Keene Valley. He has been covering events for the News for more than 15 years.)

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