Alberto Solís-Castro is a second-year MGA student and peace practitioner from Mexico with 15 years of experience in the field. Alberto is well versed in social movements, victim advocacy, indigenous rights, and mediation processes. A committed peacebuilder, Alberto shares his extensive peace work, reasons for pursuing a Master’s degree, and recent internship experience in Colombia and Washington D.C.
How did you start your journey with peacebuilding?
I began by working with indigenous movements fighting for autonomy and defending their lands against mega or extractive projects such as mining. This sparked my interest in creating a career in social movement support and advocacy. Later, I started working on the issue of violence in Mexico within the context of drug wars and engaging with families of disappeared people. I saw the cracks within civil society and the structural world, and became invested in discovering how we can change the conditions that are generating violence into systems of justice.
What challenges do you encounter as a professional peacebuilder and how do you overcome them?
We need regional partnerships to achieve peace anywhere, including in Mexico. We need to brainstorm and implement new strategies, as what we are doing now is not working as well as we would like. We also have to consider the influence of the markets. Many formal and informal markets bleed into Mexico, so focusing on changing the economic situation in Mexico is essential.
How did you find the Kroc Institute and what drew you to the program?
I was ready to change my environment and discover new ideas. I felt stuck, and in those moments, you must pause and reorient yourself. It was great to find an academy of peace studies backed by an entire community dedicated to peace. Mexico does not have a network of Kroc’s size and impact. I was drawn to the overall scholarship and support in diving into these complicated problems in a new space. I gain different perspectives from all over the world, which is invaluable to my work.
What did you do during your internship?
I served as a research intern with the Violence and Transitional Justice Lab at the Kellogg Institute. I traveled to Colombia and learned about its emerging system of peace and how it was progressing. Afterward, I went to Washington, DC and participated in meetings with Guatemalan refugees, think tanks, scholars, legislators, and various organizations with knowledge of Guatemala’s transitional justice process. I listened to their experiences and lessons from the process in hopes I could apply them to the situation in Mexico. I learned about policy prioritization and how important it is to work outside of traditional national frameworks to change violent systems. To achieve peace, structural change is necessary. Most impactful were the ideas and tools for justice I gained through those meetings and my lab research.
Where will you take your work after graduation?
I want to continue with social movements but expand by working more with international organizations, such as the United Nations. However, Mexico will always remain at the center of my peacebuilding. Recently, we publicized the Platform for Peacebuilding in Mexico, so much of my time will be dedicated to growing and evaluating the platform based on the skills I gained during my master’s program.
What advice would you impart to hopeful peacebuilders or prospective peace students?
This is a difficult and heartbreaking career full of risks. It is a process of struggle. Remember that sometimes, the process is bigger than you. But, if you commit yourself to this because your heart is calling you to peacebuilding, it will be the most beautiful and joyful work. Every little step, every win, is a beautiful moment. You will feel proud doing something that will change the world.