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Clothing Swap Hits Home for Students with Immigrant Parents

By Chloe Riley | April 11, 2013 7:40am

PILSEN — When ElevArte teaching artist Thelma Uranga showed a documentary about three Latina immigrants who work in a sweatshop, her students had a strong reaction.

“A lot of people in this room are immigrants or their parents are. ... We saw the struggles of the people who live paycheck to paycheck,” 18-year-old student Carolina Gallo said after watching the documentary “Made in L.A.”

“Some stores, the people who make their clothes, they exploit them and pay them no money,” said Itzel Urendez, 15.

So, the students decided to do a class clothing swap. After seeing just how much of their clothing was made in countries other than the United States, they decided to expand the swap to the entire community.

Uranga has been teaching her Tejer y Poder “Knitting Power” class for almost three years.

Aside from teaching students to knit and crochet, the class touches on labor issues such as sweatshop abuse and factory worker rights.

“Usually, they’re kind of shocked or surprised to learn that these are the kind of conditions these stores are saddling their workers with,” Uranga said of past students.

The swap will go down from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday at Dvorak Park, 1119 W. Cullerton St.

Uranga said she encourages youths between ages 13 and 18 to attend and — especially after receiving 150 prom dresses from Cristo Rey — save some dough on what would otherwise be a pricey item. 

Anyone who attends is encouraged to bring a few items of gently used clothing that they no longer want. However, the prom dresses will also be available to those who may not have anything to trade.