The immigrant experience varies, but those who arrive in a new country are met with many of the same hurdles: trying to learn the lay of the land, in a new language no less, with little support.
Local artist Natalia Padilla wanted to alleviate some of the burdens on immigrants and refugees by creating LOCAL, a coloring book for immigrant families. The bilingual coloring book is divided into seven sections: Civic Engagement, Communication Network, Culture, Health, Education, Transportation and Legal Advice. Each section of the coloring book offers resources and information on organizations such as Raices and the Human Rights Initiative.
Padilla was originally born in the United States but was raised in El Salvador by a single mother. She relocated permanently to the U.S. at the age of 19 with dreams of becoming a graphic designer.
When she first returned to her motherland, Padilla lived in Louisiana, but Hurricane Katrina forced her to relocate to her aunt's home in The Colony. She soon heard of the University of North Texas' design program and decided to enroll.
Padilla wanted to create something that would benefit both immigrant children and adults and came up with LOCAL, which contains illustrations by students from Vickery Meadow Youth Development Foundation in a conceptual illustration class Padilla taught in the summer of 2019. Padilla taught this class through her organization DSGN FOR US, where she offers educational design workshops.
“When you're not from a place and you don't know anybody, it's difficult to make friends and navigate the new system," Padilla says. "It can be intimidating understanding how taxes work and having financial literacy within the system. The book has clean pages if you want to take notes, or if you want to make your grocery list. Or, if you want to entertain your kid, they can color. It is designed with the different people that exist in the family in mind.”
In addition to drawings, resources and information, LOCAL contains local poetry curated by poet Edyka Chilomé, a writer known for her work in migrant justice movements.
“She’s an incredible poet,” Padilla says of Chilomé. “We posted on social media asking for submissions, and she chose the poems to be part of the book.”
This year, Padilla hopes to donate over 1,000 LOCAL books to nonprofits across Dallas Fort-Worth; through her Buy a Book, Gift a Book program, a donation to one of 10 local nonprofits will be made with each purchase of LOCAL. These nonprofits include Human Rights Initiative, Heart House, Dallas Public Library, Catholic Charities of Dallas, DataReady DFW, Literacy Achieves, Vickery Meadow Youth Development Foundation, RAICES, Light of Hope Immigration Law Center and Refugee Services of Texas.
Customers can also buy sweaters with illustrations of Dallas landmarks, which will allow for two-book donations.
By the end of January, Padilla plans to have donated the first 100 books. She is, however, giving herself some flexibility as to when she’ll have all 1,000 books donated.
“I haven’t put that much pressure on myself,” Padilla says, “... It takes time to share the story and to get people to understand the project.”
Although the past year was rough, Padilla remains inspired by the artists around her.
“I think Dallas has a really good artistic community,” Padilla says. “I really appreciate the ambition and how much people work on their craft and how serious they take it. It lights up a fire in me. [The community] is fairly small, but at the same time, it’s pretty big.”
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