Reyna Montoya on Processing Immigration Trauma Through Art

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Reyna Montoya and her family were fleeing violence when they migrated to Arizona in 2003. She was in the 8th grade, did not speak English, was undocumented, and remembers feeling shame and anger at her parents for “bringing her to a place she didn’t like and didn’t belong.” It was traumatic.

Naming this traumatic experience and working towards healing is central to Montoya’s work. In 2016, she founded Aliento, an organization that supports undocumented, DACA, and mixed immigration status families to transform trauma into hope and action. “I see brilliance and talent in our immigrant community…we remind them that they have a voice, that they are powerful, and that they belong in this community.”

Using art as a pathway to community healing and connection, Aliento champions the immigrant experience and works to promote policy and human-centered immigration reform: “We’re people-centered. We imagine a world where we see immigrants, not only as the storytellers but the strategists of their own lives. We have so many solutions we can provide.” Join us for a moving discussion with Reyna Montoya, founder of Aliento, about her vision for a future where “human potential is nurtured and not defined by immigration status.”

Resources and Mentions:

Reyna Montoya

Reyna Montoya

FOUNDER + CEO + BOARD MEMBER
Reyna Montoya was born in Tijuana, Mexico and migrated to Arizona in 2003 fleeing violence. She is a DACAmented social entrepreneur, community organizer, educator, and dancer. She is a 2016 Soros Justice Fellow, which enabled her to start Aliento. She is also a founding member of the first Teach For America DACA Advisory Board. Reyna holds bachelor's degrees in Political Science and Transborder Studies and a Dance minor from Arizona State University; she also holds an M.Ed in Secondary Education from Grand Canyon University. 

Aliento

Aliento serves undocumented, DACA, and mixed immigration status families to transform trauma into hope and action. Aliento’s youth-led membership is invested in the well-being, emotional healing, and leadership development of those impacted by the inequities of lacking an immigration status. The organization focuses on creating community healing through art that leads to collective people power.

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