Barry University formally announced and dedicated its new Institute for Immigration Studies in front of the traveling “Angels Unawares” sculpture currently on display at Bayfront Park. The ceremony celebrated the founding of the academic center dedicated to the study and understanding of the multicultural South Florida immigrant experience.
The Pedro Pan Collection that documents the historic migration is housed in the Barry University archives and will feature prominently in the work of the Institute.
“Visiting the archives and seeing my mother’s file in the collection was incredibly poignant,” Dr. Rios said. “It represented her fear, my grandparents’ courage in sending her to another country, and the opportunities that lay ahead. I am thrilled that the work of the Institute for Immigration Studies will explore and preserve the unique stories and experiences of South Florida immigrants from all over the world, both historic and present-day.”
The “Angels Unawares” sculpture, which served as the backdrop for the event, is owned by The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC and is a replica of the piece in St. Peter’s Square unveiled by Pope Francis on the 105th World Day of Migrants & Refugees in 2019. The powerful life-sized work depicts a 20-foot-long boat packed with migrants and refugees from across the globe and throughout history, with angel wings rising from the crowd. Its installation in Miami is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Miami.
The piece is currently touring cities across the United States, before reaching its permanent home at Catholic University. The inspiration for the tour is to open dialogue about immigration in each city that temporarily houses the sculpture.
“I am grateful to Catholic University and the Archdiocese of Miami for making it possible for us to dedicate our Institute in front of this beautiful and impactful work of art,” said Barry University President, Dr. Mike Allen. “The sculpture’s meaning and the significance of its journey are symbolic of the work we will do at the Institute for Immigration Studies. Building a truly inclusive community that celebrates diversity is a pillar of our Barry University Mission and through the Institute we will continue to realize our commitment to inclusivity through scholarly work as well as community engagement.”
The initial funding for the Institute for Immigration Studies is part of a generous gift to Barry University from Bacardi Corporation.