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Peasants, tired of beingnothing more than manual laborers, are discovered by the Guatemalan army. After the army destroys their village, a brother and sister, decide they must flee el Norte. After receiving help from friends and advice from a veteran immigrant on strategies for traveling, they make their way to Los Angeles.Written by
Ed Cannon <email@example.com>
Faithfully mirrors the fear and uncertainty of illegal immigrants
In the 1980s, military repression and civil warfare intensified in both Guatemala and El Salvador, resulting in massacres, forced displacement, and political assassinations. Thousands left Central America to come to America, most of them illegally. Those who entered the U.S. filed for political asylum but despite the reports of murders and disappearances, barely three percent of applicants received asylum. Today, approximately half of Salvadorans and Guatemalans living in the U.S. have less than an eighth grade education and most work long hours in jobs on the low end of the pay scale and their situation makes it nearly impossible to advance or make long term plans.
Gregory Nava's 1983 Indie film El Norte describes the plight of two young Guatemalans, Enrique (David Villalpando) and his sister Rosa (Zaide Silvia Gutierrez) who face reprisals from the military after participating in a protest meeting and undertake a hazardous journey to "the north" to find a better life. The film is divided into three parts: "Arturo Xuncax", describing the circumstances that caused the family to leave Guatemala "El Coyote", detailing their hazardous journey to reach the U.S., and "El Norte", telling the story of their life in Los Angeles. While El Norte does have a strong political message, the core of the film is the relationship between Enrique and Rosa.
The hardships of the journey are told in graphic detail, especially the last test of crossing the border by crawling on their hands and knees through an abandoned sewer line populated by hordes of rats. Things seem to be bright, however, when they arrive in Los Angeles. He becomes a busboy in an upscale restaurant, she finds work as a maid in Beverly Hills, and both try to learn English in their free time. They soon find, however, that life in the U.S. is not all that it appears and their situation unravels when Enrique is reported to INS officials by a jealous employee. El Norte wears its heart on its sleeve and the film tends toward the melodramatic, but it faithfully mirrors the fear and uncertainty that illegal immigrants face each day and I can forgive its flaws and applaud the loving bond between brother and sister and the strength it produces in their lives.
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