How Does The Film El Norte Illustrate Some Of The Difficulties Faced By Indigenous People Living In The Americas In The Late Twentieth Century? Do The Film’s Conclusions Offer Any Optimism?

1941 words - 8 pages

How does the film El norte illustrate some of the difficulties faced by indigenous people living in the Americas in the late Twentieth Century? Do the film’s conclusions offer any optimism?

Gregory Nava’s El Norte is an Oscar nominated British and American made film which premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in 1983. Based Nava’s experiences, the film tells the story of Quiche Indians Rosa and Enrique as they are forced to flee from the village in Guatemala in order to make a new life for themselves in the United States. In this essay I am going to describe some of the difficulties faced by the characters as indigenous people living in the Americas in the late 20th Century while ...view middle of the document...

This is clearly illustrated in the article The Immigrant Subsidy in US Agriculture: Farm Employment, Poverty, and Welfare which states, in regards to immigrant farm workers, “In the latter, sometimes referred to as “overgrown labour camps," a majority of residents were typically born abroad, and 25 to 50 percent of the families have incomes below federal poverty levels.” However in terms of the people running the farms it states “In most cases, farm operators live in nearby towns that have fewer than 50 percent Hispanic resident.” This example demonstrates how even though Rosa and Enrique make it successfully into America they are still face with a socio-economic gap between them as immigrants and the successful middle class Americans they aspire to be.
The film offers some optimism on this topic as it shows Rosa and Enrique working hard and being able to earn money (although still likely on minimum wage) as we can see through the set design that their apartment changes as they acquire more wealth and are able to buy more luxury items with which to decorate it. However after Rosa’s death we see Enrique struggling to find work once more and in order to convince a farm operator to recruit him he shouts “Take me, I have strong arms!” this is a reference to what Enrique’s father tells his at the start of the film that “To the rich, workers are nothing more than a pair of strong arms.” In this way, Enrique’s final lines show in a pessimistic way that, despite everything he’s been through, he is still being treated as nothing more than a pair of strong arms.

The second major difficulty faced by Enrique and Rosa is the issue of the language barrier since they speak Quiche and Spanish and will need to learn English in a country where it is the official language. However the challenge of this is highlighted when Nacha and Rosa decide to go into the cleaning business together and Nacha tells Rosa she can learn it in the schools. Rosa replies “Isn’t it dangerous?” This interrogative demonstrates the struggle that indigenous who don’t carry any official papers face since they have to be careful about going anywhere where they could be discovered and subsequently deported which makes vital things such as getting sufficient health care or language learning a risk to their lifestyle.
Nevertheless the most difficult thing regarding the language barrier is the way a person’s native language can instantly be and indicator of their socio-economic status which leads to prejudice. As outlined in the New York Centre for Migration Studies’ article ‘US Immigration Policy and the Language Character of Immigrants’; “An increase in numbers of new immigrants from non-English speaking countries means an increase in the number of foreign-born persons who have not yet had time and opportunities to learn English and therefore an increase in the proportion of non-English speakers among the foreign born population. The inability to speak the nation’s “common” language...

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