As we enter a new digital age, it is critical to think about how the technologies being developed now can affect how we function as a society in the future. When considering things like societal inequalities and social justice movements, it’s undeniable these technologies will be crucial to create local, national and even global change. One of the leaders interested in exploring how this technology intersects with activism is Sara Mora, a 26-year-old immigration rights activist, speaker, and media strategist who was born in Costa Rica and raised in New Jersey. Sara is the creator of Population MIC, a media platform and resource localizing how people can take action on immigration reform from a global lens, and has been an activist since she was about 16 years old. Recently, she was one of the panelists featured on Tercera Cultura, a docushort about fifth installment of the Metaverse Culture Series.
Created by Meta, this series aims to showcase how marginalized communities can use the metaverse to connect with each other and share their stories. Nuevo Norte, created by multi-disciplinary artist COVL, is a visual world and mixed reality installation that can be experienced in VR in Meta Horizon Worlds and on the ground at Art Basel in Miami. Tercera Cultura, the docushort describing this fifth installment features panelists like Sara, differently-abled queer actress Jillian Mercado, multidisciplinary artist D’ana Nunes (COVL), renowned photographer Juan Veloz, and D1 track sprinter Tori Ortiz. Sara believes that with the development of this technology, activists and organizers will be able to bring their work to a virtual reality and approach conversations with other community leaders in more personal, safe and efficient ways.
“I think this could be an important space for people who are working in digital strategy organizing and Latino activists to work in because it’s a unique space to create conversation,” Sara tells HipLatina. “This could be another space to gather and to plan and to strategize and to create momentum around the movements that we advocate alongside.”
Growing up in North Jersey, Sara never thought she would become an activist but she started young regardless. From the age of 10, Sara was involved with her local church and community organization. In high school, Sara did the morning announcements and led conversations about the importance of empowering young students in need of role models. Her friends came from different parts of the city and different backgrounds, and she worried that after school, the environments in which she and many of her friends lived didn’t provide opportunities for higher education. She decided to make something out of her situation and became involved in immigration activism during her teen years. In 2016, she got the opportunity to interview the President of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solis (2014-2018), about immigration reform and DACA and opened up about her experiences being an undocumented immigrant.
“He came to our local city, and my journey of loving media and conversations with leaders started through that interview. I understood that though I was scared, I was very capable of interviewing, and I didn’t stop,” she says. “I found friends, and I would record interviews with elected officials and leaders and have conversations about what DACA and immigration reform meant to them.”
The same day, Sara launched Population MIC, a media platform, visual diary and resource to share her interviews with national officials and leaders and create online conversations about immigration. She gained access to the president’s administration and met with many diplomats as a teen, inspiring her to form alliances and build sustainable bridges to education resources for Costa Rican undocumented students and central American students in New Jersey and across the U.S. Through Population MIC, she began creating content to inform the young masses, provide them with resources, and inspire them to take action and create change.
“For me, Population MIC is a bridge builder because when thinking about the future of technology, you have to understand the importance of people understanding what they’re going to be able to do after seeing an action step online,” Sara says. “When visiting the internet to look for what ways people could take action after hearing about a new change in law or policy that affects immigration reform in the US or outside, it could leave people hopeless. The goal with Population MIC is for next generation leaders for immigrant community and for women’s rights to all be interconnected in the movement for immigration reform and making that process simple by giving people the necessary steps to take direct action and understand what is happening already locally so that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
Sara attended college from 2014-2017, during which her love for diplomacy and media organizing grew stronger. In her final year of college, the Trump administration rescinded DACA, leading her to pursue organizing full-time, come out as undocumented before the governor of New Jersey, and join a lawsuit against the president for wanting to terminate the program. The lawsuit was successful and won in 2018, allowing for the program to continue; as winning a lawsuit against a sitting president is a huge deal, Sara describes this as one of the most relevant things that occurred in her career. She later went on to become co-president of the Women’s March Youth branch, a leadership program overseeing 250 chapters of high schoolers across America who aimed to bring change to their respective communities. In this position, Sara made sure that the students in these programs got the schooling necessary for them to take action and disrupt what was going on in their cities.
With the development of Nuevo Norte in the Metaverse, Sara believes grassroots organizers and activists will be able to find new ways to coordinate with each other and bring change. Additionally, she thinks it will allow people to converse with each other about important topics while maintaining a level of safety and comfort that is not always available speaking with someone in-person.
“I think the important part is that in a space like this, people get the opportunity to represent who they are in a different tone/angle with a different amount of capacity,” Sara elaborates. “I think for people who have a difficult time sharing with others, their identity, talking about your story if you choose to, through the Metaverse and through Nuevo Norte would be a new way to do it but also would give you that room to not necessarily again have to confront your fear of talking in person or things as such.”
Coming from a low-income city herself, she describes how having access to a virtual space in the Metaverse can allow low-income and/or immigrant children/adults to envision themselves in rooms and spaces they haven’t been able to be a part of historically. As many people have not generally had access to technology most of their lives, the development of the Metaverse could allow people who haven’t necessarily been able to connect with people online or across the country to build a world of their own creation and meet people they would otherwise be unable to see in-person at a more personal level.
While building her platform at 16 years old, she remembers talking to people living on the West Coast and building a sense of family, friendship and unity despite the distance. In the future, she hopes that with the creation of virtual spaces like Nuevo Norte, 16 ear olds currently in the position she was in might be able to find that community and feel that closeness with others as well in a more simple way that allows them to stay safe and be true to themselves.
“I think that would change a lot; there’ll be more room to have conversations about upbringings and about stories and about personal experiences, not just on politics, but on anything,” Sara says. “That can then build up to action taking on who is our next elected official, because now we had a conversation, and you might have known about an election I didn’t know about and things like that.”
Though she’s been incredibly successful in launching her platform and advocating for the idea that migration is a global crisis and human right, Sara believes that if the Metaverse had been available to her as a teen, she would have still created a virtual space and called it Population MIC but would have been able to form deeper, more personal connections with those who she knew from that age.
In 2023 and the future, Sara is looking forward to launching the digital strategy program for Population MIC and seeing what opportunities arise in the future. She expects to join the Metaverse within the next year to bring her activist work and Population MIC onto a new virtual platform. With this, she aims to expand from direct messaging with people into actually creating rooms and spaces for young people, leaders and activists to continue conversations about immigration and societal change. As there are no borders in the Metaverse, Sara hopes this will allow people to join virtual spaces that feel almost as real as traveling where travel is not always possible.