Puentes/Bridges, Inc. believes in people and their desire to deepen their connections to one another. Our focus lies in fostering this desire and strengthening relationships.
We are a 501 (c) (3) non-profit that has helped farming communities in west central Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota bridge the cultural and language gaps between Mexican workers, the farmers with whom they work, and the communities in which they live.
In 1999, Carl Duley, Buffalo county’s UW-Extension agricultural agent, saw the need to bridge the communication gap between local farmers and their Mexican employees. He approached Shaun Duvall, the local high school Spanish teacher at the time, about this need. She began teaching Spanish and interpreting for local farmers and quickly learned that interpreting alone wasn’t enough. So, in 2001, she led a trip to Mexico with fifteen farmers for two weeks. During this trip, they immersed themselves in Spanish language classes, cultural immersion experiences, and visits with employees’ families. John Rosenow, one of the farmers on the trip, said it was life-changing for him and upon returning home, he wanted to do whatever he could to make it happen again. He and Shaun put their heads together and in 2003, they officially incorporated Puentes as a non-profit.
Over the last two decades, the trips have evolved into a full-on immersion experience that focuses on visiting the families of employees working on dairy farms in Wisconsin and Minnesota. During these visits, all those involved have learned how much humanity they share despite the geographical and cultural differences between them. Well over 150 farmers, educators, and people from all walks of life in the U.S. have taken trips to Mexico to see and understand the lives of those who have made the hard decision to leave their families and come to the US to work. Participants have developed a greater understanding of the culture the employees come from and farmers have seen their employees beam and work towards their highest potential as a result of taking a personal interest in them. The connections made have infiltrated into the daily interactions in our rural agricultural community and have fostered a stronger kinship to one another.