This project started back in 2006, when I first became interested in Ugly Betty. I am currently re-writing an essay that looks at Ugly Betty as a story of undocumented immigration. My main contention is that the stories about immigrants to the United States are usually shaped by the myth of the melting pot. Namely, immigrants are the huddled masses, who come to the U.S.A. in search of opportunity. However, before they can reap the full benefits that the U.S.A. has to offer, they must undergo a rite of passage (see Van Gennep and/or Turner). Ideally, the passage leads to gradual assimilation, as immigrants adopt American ways and shed their own customs. If they assimilate fully, immigrants incorporated into the receiving community and granted rights. If they fail, they are doomed to an eternity in liminality. I came up with this diagram to explain the narrative structure of the melting pot myth.
Click to enlarge.
Since I’m dealing with undocumented immigration, though, this structure doesn’t fit. Undocumented immigrants cannot be fully incorporated into the receiving community because they have committed a transgression against the receiving community. Territory, once settled and demarcated, is considered sacred (see Van Gennep). Therefore, I came up with a different diagram that offers two alternatives, one leading to incorporation, and the other one leading back to a status that I am calling liminal residence (you reside in the receiving country, but lack the rights of the native born or naturalized).
I just watched the trailer for Robert Rodriguez’ upcoming movie, Machete. Talk about being topical. Right now, with Arizona passing that mess of a law (jeez… how many constitutional amendments does Arizona to break?) regarding illegal immigration. Now, here’s Robert Rodriguez, and his Mexicanized tribute to blaxploitation. The new, re-cut trailer, starts off with actor Danny Trejo, who plays machete, sending a very special message to Arizona, on Cinco de Mayo.
From what I can see in the trailer, this movie will play up some familiar themes. There’s a scene with Jessica Alba shouting “we didn’t cross the border; the border crossed us.” I wish I knew who said it originally. What I do know is that, by now, this quote is part of the national lexicon, an unacknowledged, and frankly scary part of the American experience. Yes, the border was re-drawn over a century ago, and thousands of people were left on this side. Legally, they were granted citizenship, but in praxis, the Mexican-American population of the Southwest did not have the same rights as the Anglo population. With illegal immigration, the matter just becomes more complex. Geographical proximity has shaped immigration from Latin America into a phenomenon that is obviously different from the European migration of yesteryear.
And the Arizona law is not going to fix that. Do you really think that passing a law that violates the fourteenth amendment, the fifth amendment, and the fourth amendment is a solution to illegal immigration?
This is why I’m not surprised when someone like Robert Rodriguez lashes out in anger. I’ve never been a big fan of his work (too gory for me), but this time I would like to see his take on illegal immigration. Imagine, I can just see how this plays off nativist anxieties. An illegal immigrant with weapons? wow… that’s a far cry from Ignacio Suarez in Ugly Betty.