Faces of ALBA: Dayana Arrue

November 19, 2017

Dayana Arrue

Dayana Arrue is a Geoscience Engineering major at Rutgers University and an intern at an engineering firm. An activist for environmental and migration-related causes, she hopes to remediate groundwater pollution by designing wastewater treatment systems. She is also a passionate speaker on behalf of the Dreamers, the undocumented young activists who received the ALBA/Puffin Prize for Human Rights Activism in 2013. Dayana first attended ALBA’s Human Rights Film Festival four years ago and has not missed the annual event since.

You have been attending “Impugning Impunity” since 2013. How did you hear about ALBA?

I heard about the Lincoln Brigade volunteers and the human rights film festival through my Honors History professor Hank Doherty at Essex County College in Newark, who focused on exposing us to different worldviews and to scholarly debate about social events. He always invited his students to Impugning Impunity. Most students don’t come because it’s a far trip from New Jersey. But I have always been interested in learning about other people, their struggles and even learning about my own culture. I came to the U.S. when I was six years old and forgot most of my culture along the way. This is exactly what ALBA’s film festival teaches me. I enjoy learning but also find it painful at times; it feels like a burden to know the cruel truth many other people face and not be able to do much about it. It’s hard to bear sometimes.

“It feels like a burden to know the cruel truth.”

What do you like about the festival that makes you attend year after year?

The first year I was specifically interested in watching The Tiniest Place,  which is a film based on the civil war in El Salvador, my home country. During that time I started questioning my family’s political preferences in El Salvador. I’d ask: why do you prefer the [conservative] ARENA party over [progressive] FMLN? They would only say that the FMLN sent guerrilleros to hurt some people in our little hometown during the civil war and that they were simply rebellious people who did us harm. The film talks specifically about the civil war. I wanted to know about Salvadorian politics and history for myself and not simply follow blindly what my family believed.

Of course, there’s never an easy answer to events like the civil war and who was involved and at fault, but it’s important to know as many facts as possible nonetheless. The film brought me to tears; the hundreds of people massacred are my people, and it hurt to know the truth. Since then I’ve started reading more about history and keeping up with as much politics as I can. I think my family and I would never vote for a party blindly again; instead, we will seek the truth. It’s a weird thing with many of our parents; there is one thing that they remember, and they’ll stick to it for the rest of their lives like my parents did with their preferred political party. They didn’t even know the current political events they only remembered that “one thing” the political party did long ago. Once I began to learn facts, I began sharing it. My family who lived through the civil war only saw one side of everything and only knew what they lived, but they didn’t see the entire picture as it is being revealed today. I’m glad they listen to me when I speak to them about the many things I am finding out about our little country.

What is the most important thing for you right now?

To learn and to share what I learn with others so they may be inspired to love learning as well. I believe I am still at an age where my ideas are being molded, along with my worldviews and my character. I know I will make a change in this world somehow, but I must first learn how to do it. I went from wanting to study business and international law/studies to engineering. I went from wanting to provide jobs to the poor to learning how to make countries environmentally safe/healthy. I’ve come to know that the health of our environment determines the health of every person.

Is there anything that scares you about the present moment?

Honestly, the entire world is facing a clean water crisis, and few people pay enough attention to it. I want to continue teaching others about environmental causes such as this and also human rights causes as in the crisis of the undocumented population and DACA recipients in the U.S. I learn and I share. I live, and I share that too. As a DACA recipient myself, I have tried my best to speak about our cause to big companies as well as to individuals, in conferences as well as through more intimate conversations.

“We want genuine relationships; we get tired of being told what to do or what we may be doing wrong.”

What do you think older people can do to support younger people like you?

I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without “older” people who simply took their time to sit down and talk to me. We want genuine relationships; we get tired of being told what to do or what we may be doing wrong. We all just need older people to inspire us by listening to us and sharing themselves with us too. The truth is, older people must lead by example. If you listen to me–even though I may be wrong–I will also listen to you. My professor’s simple invitation to watch “The Tiniest Place” changed my entire worldview! He offered to cover the ticket cost if I would only show up. He told me this in our community college’s cafeteria while we were drinking coffee before class. He would always come before our class started so we could go and have coffee with him and talk about life. We need older people to do this with us; we simply need time.

What could ALBA do for young people?

I think ALBA is already doing what it should do for everyone: revealing truths from around the world and exposing cruelty. More youth need to attend these film festivals; I’m sure it would change many people’s lives. I think having some film showings at different colleges/universities and some genuine conversations about them would really help us as young people.

Marina Garde is ALBA’s Executive Director.