Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sin Nombre

This was an amazing movie. Leaving the theater, my husband said, "This is the new El Norte." El Norte was the film we were shown in high school Spanish in an effort by our teacher to make us think differently about immigration into our country. I in turn showed the film to my students when I taught Spanish. But now I wish I could have shown this movie instead.

Instead of anti-communist military dictatorships, the people of Central America now have to deal with highly organized and violent gangs. I remember one of my Salvadoran students in Gadsden County explaining to me that the gangs ran everything and that's why she left. The MS-13 gang members in the movie use words like "homie" and "bitcha" making the point that these gangs were formed in the U.S. and exported back to Central America when members were deported.

The gang's name "Mara Salvatrucha" is explained by Wikipedia like this:
Additionally, the word mara means gang in Caliche and is taken from marabunta, the name of a fierce type of ant. "Salvatrucha" is a portmanteau of Salvadoran and trucha, a Caliche word for being alert, usually entailing preparedness for crime or abuse from police.

This is also a movie about being on the road. Honduran immigrants travel through Guatemala on foot and then catch a train going north in Chiapas. They are in fear of la Migra before even reaching the U.S. as they are illegal in Mexico too. The train is dangerous, both for the other people riding it and for the risk of riding on the roof of a train.

My only criticism is that Sayra's character is not well developed. We understand El Casper and his desire to leave his past behind. But we don't know Sayra well enough to properly understand what changes the rough journey north might have made in her. And that journey would have changed anyone. She was a flat character set against the very dynamic and moody Casper and that bothers me.

A last interesting point: in El Norte, when Enrique and Rosa finally cross the border, there is a very dramatic scene showing the glimmering lights of San Diego. When Sayra reaches some border town in Texas, we see a SuperWalMart and if I remember correctly....a Circuit City, which is now a dead company. The scene is not beautiful. We don't feel any relief for Sayra having made it. The U.S. is not what it used to be, for them or for us.

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