Ithaca College is welcoming Pedro Molina as a visiting international scholar in the Honors Program for the next two years through the college’s collaboration with Ithaca City of Asylum (ICOA).
Molina was a journalist and cartoonist in Nicaragua at Confidencial, an independent Nicaraguan publication. In April 2018, people in Nicaragua began protesting the government run by President Daniel Ortega. After the Nicaraguan government began targeting government critics and took over Confidencial’s newsroom in December 2018, Molina and his family came to Ithaca so he could continue his journalism work remotely and teach at the college, Molina said.
Molina said he has continued to work as a journalist despite the challenges he has faced because journalism makes other countries aware of the issues in Nicaragua.
“It’s important because it helps give people hope,” Molina said. “Because if not by independent media, nobody outside Nicaragua will know what is happening down there.”
ICOA is a volunteer-run organization founded in 2001 and is funded through Cornell University. The organization provides sanctuary to international writers whose work is suppressed in their native countries, and it organizes an appointment at the college for them.
Barbara Adams, associate professor in the Department of Writing, is the vice chair and a founding member of ICOA. Adams said ICOA selects its visiting writers and artists from a pool that has been nominated by the International Cities of Refuge Network. She said Molina was selected for the program because of his talent as a cartoonist and because ICOA had not had a visual artist as a scholar before Molina.
Molina is ICOA’s seventh resident artist and the college’s third visiting international scholar. Past scholars at the college include Sonali Samarasinghe from 2012–2014 and Raza Rumi from 2015–2017. Rumi is the current director of the Park Center for Independent Media.
Molina will be teaching courses in the Honors Program through the School of Humanities and Sciences and will be available to visit classes in any department throughout his two–year appointment at the college until the end of the 2020–21 academic year. Molina will teach an Honors course in Spring 2020 called “Drawing Conclusions: Global Cartooning and Social Commentary.” The class will aim to improve students’ understandings of cartoons’ roles in society and what advantages the medium offers in communicating ideas.
Molina has been internationally recognized for his work, receiving the Maria Moors Cabot Award in international journalism from Columbia Journalism School in July 2019 for improving the understanding of North and South Americas through his work. He has also had his work published in Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year by Pelican and the Gallimard/Cartooning for Peace collection.
Alicia Swords, Honors Program director and associate professor of sociology, said Molina will offer a unique perspective on communication because of his experience as a visual artist.
“With his experience as a cartoonist and journalist and someone who communicates through drawings and caricature and who thinks critically about the relationship between creativity and communication, I think there will be many different layers of learning for our students,” Swords said.
Molina said he believes that cartoons are an especially effective medium for political messages because they are more accessible than other forms of journalism. During his appointment at the college, Molina said, he hopes to introduce students to cartooning as a form of communication.
“I’m looking forward to sharing with students here in Ithaca College about my craft and the power that it has behind it,” Molina said. “And also, of course, the challenges in this new world which we live in where humor in cartooning can be sometimes very dangerous things to do.”
Swords said the visiting international scholar program has enhanced students’ learning experiences at the college.
“I think we need mentors and role models and people whose stories and lives we learn about in order to learn how to be courageous and how to have integrity,” Swords said. “Those are the kinds of lessons in values that I think can’t be taught only from a textbook or only in the classroom.”
Adams said the organization benefits both the resident artists and the Ithaca community. She said that having international scholars helps people in Ithaca and at the college be more conscious of global politics.
“It keeps you current,” Adams said. “It keeps you very, very much aware. The best way to learn, I think, is through the personal life experiences of somebody who has had to make these hard choices and continues to work and produce and be creative and do that without being able to return to their home country.”
Molina said he considers his greatest accomplishment to be the continuation of his work despite the political and personal challenges he has faced. Molina said the political issues in Nicaragua did not only affect him as a journalist but also as a citizen.
“We are all victims of this system, this dictatorship down there,” said Molina. “It is hard for me as a citizen to see what my country is becoming.”
ICOA will welcome Molina and his family at its annual Voices of Freedom event Oct. 4.