Las Cruces, NM (NMSU) — In September 2013 Mary Benanti went on a pilgrimage to central Europe – a trip she describes as a “Pilgrimage of Discovery.” She and a church group traveled to Warsaw, Krakow, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, Jasna Gora, Auschwitz, Budapest and Vienna.
Now Benanti, a women’s studies professor at New Mexico State University, will share her experiences during the upcoming “Global Connections” lecture sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, in the Gerald Thomas auditorium.
“I was hoping to find and understand the roots of a person's faith – not faith as in religion, but faith in life, the future, something unifying in human nature,” Benanti said, explaining her purpose of going on the trip. “I am a journalist by nature and before I became a professor here I was a political reporter in Washington D.C. This pilgrimage relates to my love of humanity, the fact that every person, every life has a story worth telling, and that we find beauty in the darkest of times and places. I went on this journey not as a professor, but a student of humanity.”
Benanti said she also observed not the differences, but rather similarities between Polish and American culture: people wanting work, a home and generally a good life for their loved ones.
“The highlights for me were the scene of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising and a day spent in Auschwitz. The carvings at the salt mine were also very intriguing,” she added. “Many in our group were interested in the life of the first Polish pope, John Paul II.”
During her talk, Benanti will share photos from her journey, as well as readings from female writers who survived Auschwitz, in honor of March being National Women’s History Month.
“What started out as an extension of my interest in history turned into a pilgrimage of discovery and a celebration of human courage and finding faith in darkness,” she said. “From the memorial of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, to the depths of a 700-year-old salt mine, then to Auschwitz I and II - this trip through Poland offered a unique view of the past.”
Benanti is an NMSU alumna, with degrees in journalism and mass communications and government. She has worked as a reporter for the El Paso Times and the Gannett News Service in Washington D.C. Her beats included immigration, the U.S.-Mexico border region, the North American Free Trade Agreement and politics. She has been a professor since 2007, previously having worked as a writer and director of news at University Communications for three years.
The “Global Connections” series features faculty members’ exotic trips around the world. The purpose is to provide an opportunity for members of the campus and surrounding community to listen and ask questions of NMSU professors about the kind of global first-hand experiences they might never otherwise encounter.
The College of Arts and Sciences series will be offered on the second Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. in Gerald Thomas Hall where patrons will have an opportunity to dine at 100 West Cafe prior to the talks.
100 West Cafe is a hands-on laboratory for students in NMSU’s Hotel, Tourism and Restaurant Management program, offering buffet-style dining every Wednesday for $8.