From Strangers to Neighbors: Mixteca’s Role in Welcoming Immigrants to Brooklyn

The nonprofit works on the frontlines of the migrant crisis, helping asylum seekers and immigrants from all over the world as they struggle to call NYC home.

By: Katey St. John

Amidst all the struggles that immigrants face before and after arriving in the concrete jungle known as New York City, the Brooklyn nonprofit, Mixteca, offers them a soft place to land, heal and call home.

“We care for the community because we are part of the community,” said Lorena Kourousias, Mixteca’s executive director. “When I immigrated to the U.S., I needed an organization like this one.”

Leaving one’s home country behind to resettle into a new one is a mentally distressing experience. The journey itself is often dangerous and enduring. Then, after arriving at their destination, immigrants must adjust to an entirely new culture, unlocking a host of other mental stressors. About 47% of immigrants have PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, from these experiences.

“We acknowledge how hard the trauma of immigration is in this community,” Kourousias said. “We believe in community healing, and we truly believe that if we are together and we encourage joy … people are going to have spaces to heal.”

Along with a focus on mental health, Mixteca also provides the immigrant community legal clinics, job training, presentations on labor rights, weekly food distributions and more.

The weekly food distribution, which Mixteca calls its “mercadito,” or little market, gives local families boxes of fresh food and culturally-appropriate pantry staples. Every Saturday morning, lines of people wrap around the block waiting for the food, even hours before the distribution begins.

“Every time that I’m thinking we don’t have enough funding, someone comes with the check and says, ‘Here, keep doing it,’” Kourousias said.  “And we do it with all our heart.”

Since the recent influx in asylum seekers, Mixteca has embraced and supported this population. Initially, Mixteca only offered services in Spanish and other indigenous Latinx languages. Now, the organization offers other languages like French to include this community of new arrivals.

“We know this country has been built by the immigrant community,” Kourousias said. “And that’s the reason why we are so colorful.”

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