Immigration to the United States from Latin America has happened for long. It was at its pick in the 1980s when there was much political tension in the south. Young people were taking this as an opportunity to move to the north and begin a new life in the United States. This is what some scholars have termed as a transition in life because the life in the United States would be very different considering that they would be in a new culture. Many immigrants to the United States have come with high expectations of good jobs and good living standards (Brett 37). They consider them to be a part of the American dream. However, this, in most cases, is not the case because the experiences they get make the majority of them to prefer being back at home. Many films and stories have been developed about the lives of these immigrants and about various things they go through on a daily basis. El Norte and The Official Story are two main stories that were told about the immigration of Hispanics (Ebert 38; Asrianti 28). They give about the experience of the immigrants.
There are varied reasons why El Norte and The Official Story films have been made. One is that the writers wanted to show the desires and misleading things that had led many people to the United States and ended up becoming immigrants. In El Norte, the first scene of the film is happening in a small rural Guatemalan village named San Pedro. There, the Xuncax family is introduced (Ebert 37). They show how they admire the life of people in the United States where even the poor have their own cars. The writer shows how people make quick decisions to move to the United States.
Another reason the films have been made was to make people aware of the risks in migrating to the United States. Such threats begin from the first step people have made. There were also risks at the border because some of them even lost lives before crossing the border to the United States. In addition, they had to pass through a hard means; for instance; in El Norte, the characters crossed the border through pipes that had rats (Brett 42). Life on the other side was also difficult. There were many risks in being illegal immigrants in the United States; and, thus, the films were made to make people aware of these risks. Thus, they could find meanings of evading them or even avoiding moving to the U.S.
It was important to tell these stories because many people were finding their way to the United States with an aim of living the good life. It was important to tell the stories in order to correct many people about the stereotypes they had had about the United States (Asrianti 26). They were aimed at passing a message so that immigrants to the United States could be decreased. There were many stereotypes among the Latinos about the United States. This is evident in El Norte where the immigrants were seen to be full of hope before they made their way into the U.S.
Considering the political and economic situation in Latin America, it was important to make such films. Latin America was full of corruption and poverty. These are the main factors that made the Latino opt for the life in other countries and probably in the north (Brett 43). The films were important because they gave a real picture of what was happening in the south. In El Norte, the writer begins by narrating about the political tension that made the two immigrants make the decision of moving to the north. This would give a picture to the whole world and the U.S., in particular, about what was happening in the south. They aimed at portraying the real Latino life, and how they were personally suffering. In The Official Story, the first scene shows how the life was dirty in Argentina, how lives were lost, and depicts the campaign of killings and torture (Asrianti 53). The film show the environment in the country was unpleasant and how many eventually evaded and children were left without caregivers as their parents died from the political unrest.
It was also important to tell these stories to make the U.S. government aware of what was happening in the south before they made any policies regarding the immigrants. Many of the policies that existed in the United States in the 1980s about the immigrants were mainly to oppress them and use them as slaves. This is because the U.S. government did not have a real picture of what was happening on the ground (Brett 30). Through the stories, the writers had the belief that the government would learn something from this and find the ways of helping the immigrants rather than exposing to a very risky environment.
The stories about the immigrants were also told so that the impacts of immigration could be known. There was less information about immigration to the United States as many people only knew that this had been against the laws of the country. People migrating to the nation had to obtain the right documents. The impacts of these were not known to many people because many of them thought that the people were coming to the U.S. to be the part of the American dream and get employment in the country. Therefore, many of them thought that with many jobs in the United States more so in the agricultural sector many migrants were having their dreams fulfilled (Ebert 45). This was, however, not the case; and the writers aimed at making people of the real impacts of immigration. This would also play a key role in ending the stereotypes about the good life the immigrants had got in the new country. It was not the case as they have suffered much as evident in El Norte where the characters reach a part where they see the exploitation as the part of life.
El Norte and The Official Story were told from a woman’s perspective. This was also the case with other stories that were written about immigration in the 1980s. They wrote the stories from a woman’s perspective because of the challenges experienced that could probably be very hard for women. It required much hardness to make it to the other country. In El Norte, this is shown clearly, where a female character decides to go back after struggling much in crossing the border (Ebert 49). It is a male character who encourages her and helps her such that they eventually cross the border. Women are seen to face the severe consequences in this because men are tolerant and adapt easily to harsh conditions unlike women.
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Women were seen to play a critical role in immigration. Watching The Official Story, Alicia is presented as a caretaker of her adopted daughter Gaby. She goes through much; for instance, we see her struggling to know the parents of a child. However, her husband is not concerned with this (Asrianti 53). She goes to the organizations and hospitals looking for records to identify the parents of the child. It shows the emotional attachment women have when it comes to some issues like taking care of children. Women are also seen to console in hard situations. Men are the laborers; and when they are oppressed at the work place, women play a key role in cooling their emotions. In The Official Story, we see Roberto coming home when he is stressed due to the machinations at the work place. When he gets there, he is very annoyed. However, he is cooled down when Alicia says, “How does it feel not knowing where your child is?” This shows much concern by Alicia, which gets the attention of her husband (Brett 37). Therefore, the central role women play in the family makes them the center of attraction in the Latino narratives.
Women are also seen to give up easily; and, thus, the stories were told from their perspective. Looking at El Norte, Rosa lost hope when she fell sick because of the rat infection she had encountered when crossing the border. In the last scene, she is shown saying,
In our own land, we have no home. They want to kill us … In Mexico…. only poverty. We cannot make a home there either….here in the north, we are not accepted. When will we find a home, Enrique? Maybe when we die, we will find a home. (Brett 56)
These are the words that show clearly that she had wholly lost hope in life. She eventually dies (Brett 56). On the contrary, her brother Enrique goes on with life despite the challenges he faces. Considering the challenges immigrants faced it was important to tell the stories from a woman’s perspective in order to show what they had gone through and the risks of migrating to the United States. In The Official Story, this was also the case where Alicia goes through much trying to find the parents of the child because she feels that they are very desperate because of their lost daughter (Asrianti 55). She goes to hospitals and other organizations looking for records that could help her get the parents of the child. This is not the case with her husband because he is less concerned about this and even tells his wife to ignore the matter.
Generally, women are shown to go through hard times. When we look at the case of Enrique’s mother, she went through much because her husband was killed and his head hanged on the tree where they can all see. This is a psychological torture. To make matters worse, she is abducted by the militants and leaves her two children. In the process of crossing, the border women are shown to go through much in the hands of the Coyote who pretend to help them cross the border, but end up raping them. Rosa was lucky because as they were struggling with the Coyote pretending to help them cross the border, the U.S. police officers appeared (Brett 45). They were helped to go back safely where they got a faithful coyote that helped them cross the border. She is affected by the rats in the pipes they used to cross the border. Women, therefore, face most of the negative impacts of immigration like the psychological torture. This is the reason Rosa gives up and eventually dies.
In El Norte and Maria Full of Grace, the directors approach the stories differently. In El Norte, the characters who are a brother and a sister are forced to escape from their country because of the conditions that have befallen them. Their father is killed; and his head hanged on the tree where they can see it. Their mother is also abducted; and, thus, they are forced to elude to begin a better life somewhere. In addition, they have been told by their father about the good life in the United States. Thus, their father died in the process of preparing them to leave to the U.S. They still had some dreams of the good life there. However, it was not the main reason that made them escape. In Maria Full of Grace, Maria, the main character, has a job; she wakes up daily and goes to earn her living. Anyway, she is lowly paid (Sarris 38). This is in Columbia where there was no political unrest. The environment was good just that Maria had the hopes about the good life in the United States. She, therefore, quit her job intentionally to get into drug trafficking. She is also pregnant and finds it hard to be married to her boyfriend because they will be forced to live in a house with other eight people. She, thus, makes a decision to smuggle heroin to the United States and dreams of the huge amount of money she will get. Therefore, she does not flee because of political unrest as it was the case with Enrique and Rosa in El Norte.
In both stories, the characters are presented to have great hopes about the future. They all believe that when they make their way to the United States they will begin another good life. In El Norte, the brother and the sister are very determined to cross the border because of their hopes. They wish to see a good life in the United States. This is also the case with Maria who even losses her job as she is determined to have a good life. In both stories, the characters find that life was not as they had thought when they crossed the border (Holden 45). On arrival, Maria and Lucy in the story Maria Full of Grace, they are taken to a hotel where they are exposed to harsh conditions. In El Norte, the brother and the sister have realized that life was not as they had thought. They have to struggle much to earn their living not even to buy the cars they had thought of before crossing the border. It reaches the point when Rosa gives up and says the aforementioned words about finding home (Brett 56).
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As the stories progress, the characters change from the hopeful heroes to hopeless ones. Before crossing the border, Enrique and Rosa were very hopeful of living a good life. They later have realized that it is not as they thought because they continue being exploited for their labor by rich merchants (Brett 46). They thought that they would reach the point where they would be their own bosses and escape from the evil of exploitation. However, it is never the case. They are exploited more for their labor and even reach a point where they see the exploitation as the part of life. They lose hope on the good life; and Rosa states it clearly by saying she finds no hope in whatever she does. As a result, she eventually dies. Maria also progresses from a hardworking girl in the farms to a drug trafficker. She is in a need of higher earnings and a better life (Holden 51). She becomes a criminal in the eyes of her society because of the desire for the good life.
In the stories, the role of politics is very important. In El Norte, there was a political unrest that made characters suffer much before making a final decision to escape to the states (Sarris 36). There was no peace and politics used to show how the immigrants suffered in the eyes of their own government. They were forced to take matters into their hands.
The point of view of both stories is how people from Latin America end up in a reasonable life because of their desire to live in the United States. They had the stereotypes that the life in the U.S. was the best as even the poor were having their own cars. These points of view are important because they have built the films. It is through this that the role of immigration is brought in some issues to do with immigration (Holden 55). The point of view is also critical because it shows the reality. It is on the ground rather than people working on stereotypes that will never work. The points of view in the films also help to bring out the main themes. For instance, in El Norte, one of the main themes is the magical realism that is brought out through the depiction of dreams about a good life of the characters. Also, such movies dispay how this has turned out to be a nightmare.
The suffering that immigrants are getting in the United States is also a result of the political issues. There are the laws that do not allow illegal immigrants in the country. In addition, the laws seem to preach inequality because the rich use their powers to exploit the poor people (Brett 28). At the end of the day, these are the poor who do all heavy work, but take home the least share. Politics is, therefore, portrayed through inequality.
Women in the stories evolve with much courage. At first, they appear to be very polite, but the mysteries they are facing force them to make desperate actions as the adage goes, “Desperate situations call for desperate actions.” In El Norte, Rosa appeared to be a coward more so when her father had been killed and her mother abducted. However, in the final scene, to escape with her brother, she showed much courage. This is also the same thing at the border where women were said to fall into wrong hands of the Coyote. However, she managed to cross the border together with her friend because of the much courage she had had (Ebert 53). While in the United States, she acts courageously knowing that she is being illegally there. This is also the same case with Maria in Maria Full of Grace who was once very polite and could wake up daily to go to work in the farms where she had been paid not much. She changes from a very polite girl to a naughty one who can smuggle drugs and trade them in the United States. She demonstrates much courage showing that desperate situations call for desperate actions.
Women in the stories also evolve through hardships. In El Norte, Rosa becomes hardy and can do anything to cross the border. In the states, she is also hardy to do any job so that they can earn the living. This is also the same case with Maria and Lucy in Maria Full of Grace who have become very hardy such that they can smuggle drugs to the United States. Nevertheless, they are very aware that it is the criminal offense (Holden 62).
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Immigration has remained to be a problem in the United States even to date. El Norte and The Official Story are the stories that show clearly how immigration has evolved and the different factors that have fertilized this. The stories are narrated from the women’s perspective because they are the ones befalling victims of this. They have to take care of their families and children. The characters in the films evolve from the polite women to hardy females. They make decisions that are being completely desperate. Politics have a key role to play in this; for instance, in El Norte, the politics unrest forced the characters to elude. Comparing El Norte and Maria Full of Grace, these are two stories that have the same point of view. They differ in the conditions that lead the characters flee away. This is because in El Norte they escaped because of the political unrest in the country; while in Maria Full of Grace the character flees intentionally as she had a job. These are the good stories. They should reveal the mysteries of immigration and the stereotypes people may have.
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