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Oaxacan Activists to Migrant Workers: Please Come Home

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By See-Dubya  •  April 18, 2008 03:23 PM

Though the Mexican government infamously provides prospective illegal immigrants with maps of the Arizona desert, there are occasionally voices that take a different view. One of them is an indigenous-rights activist group in the state of Oaxaca, which was touring day-labor camps in San Diego this week:

When migrants return to their communities with American clothes, cars and money, people see the benefit of coming to the U.S., but they don’t realize the dangers and hardships that migrants face, she said.

“We want to let people know the suffering people go through and to look for alternatives” to migration, Maldonado said.

When I hear that her group is called the “Frente Indigena Binacional Oaxaqueno”, I start to wonder about what those “alternatives” might entail. But here’s a pleasant surprise:

Vazquez said she hopes her visit will spark interest in a plan to create jobs at home by starting small companies that produce Oaxacan crafts, textiles and traditional food for export to the U.S.

“We may be poor in economic terms, but we are rich in culture and natural resources,” Vazquez said.

A group advocating entrepreneurship as a solution to immigration problems? Outstanding! That will be an especially difficult project in Mexico’s regulatory environment and corruption, but I wish them the best.

Now, looking through this translated report of FIOB’s goals, I get the feeling that they’re probably not about to join hands with the Minutemen and sing folk songs. But entrepreneurship, together with an honest assessment that the situation of migrants in America is difficult and that this is just not a healthy relationship for Mexico and Mexicans, gives their activism a little more credibility than that of Juan Hernandez. These guys know that that migrant labor is being shamefully exploited, and they’re also aware (and willing to point out) that the Mexican government doesn’t always have their best interest at heart.

What I don’t hear yet is a recognition of the distinction between legal and illegal migrant labor that drives their opposition. Still, baby steps…

UPDATE: Tangentially related–after the dramatic success (heh) of this fall’s series of anti-war movies, the Wash Times says Hollywood has learned its lesson and is moving on to something Americans are gonna love

Both “Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna)” and “The Visitor” are focused intently on putting a sympathetic human face on illegal immigration. However, in the process of trying to coerce us into rooting for their illegal-immigrant protagonists, they create unconvincing, idealized characters and oversimplify the vastly complex immigration issue.

Both “The Visitor” and “Under the Same Moon” answer stereotypes with stereotypes and favor cheap shots over nuanced arguments and fine-grained insights. Their filmmakers forget that it’s impossible to disarm the opposing side by dodging it or caricaturing it; the opponent has to be authentically engaged, as do the supporters.

Myriad films about illegal immigration are on the horizon, including the promising titles “Paraiso Travel,” “Padre Nuestro” and “Crossing Over.” If they want to help audiences really explore the issues, they’ll have to remember that God is in the details, not the sweeping generalizations and oversimplifications.

I can’t wait!

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