Did you know … that in the 1930s, thousands of Americans of Mexican descent were rounded up by the Federal, State, and Los Angeles governments, put on boxcars, and sent to Mexico? (Estimates vary from 10,000 to 400,000, and by the very fascistic, vigilante nature of the enterprise—no records were kept—it’s impossible now to know just how many.) About 60% of them were American-born citizens, just like the Nisei a few years later. Many of them had never even been to Mexico. There were no trials, no due process of any kind. It was a bad time to have a suntan in Los Angeles. If you were brown, La Migra rounded you up and boxed you up and shipped you off. The railroad company got $14 a head for taking them, not to the border, but deep into Mexico, so it would be tough to get back. This is exactly how the Gestapo was operating in Germany at the time.
The rationale? It was the Great Depression, Americans were out of work, and all these brown people, citizens or not, were taking jobs away from white Americans. Bear that in mind the next time you think about the current immigration debate. I don’t know what the solution is to our current problems, but with all this talk of a 2000-mile Berlin Wall along the border, I do know where this sort of racism can lead.
We saw this film when it was new, and loved it. It holds up on a second viewing. The deportation is a central fact of the multi-generational saga of the fictional Sanchez family, as the pregnant matriarch is deported and has to walk back to her home. It takes her two years. The family has plenty of ups and downs, but on balance, it is a good life. The film stars most of the emerging Hispanic stars of the last decade. It is gorgeous, colorful as a serape, and only goes over the top now and then. (I had trouble near the end when a young boy rejects his father; a little too manipulative.) It was directed by Gregory Nava, who did El Norte, and I highly recommend it.