18 May 2010

Mexican "Wetback" Films

Since I am ridiculously jealous of the Mexican VHS boxes over at Satan's Hope Chest, all I can do is point you in his direction and proffer these movie posters.
I know you're probably thinking, the term "wetback" is racist, and you're right, but the literal translation of the term "mojado" is "wet person" or "wetback," and in general both terms have come to refer to anyone who crosses the U.S.-Mexico border "illegally." Hence the term used in this specific context  means simply "someone who clandestinely crosses the border" and is racist only when used in an Arizona context, as a blanket classification for anyone who doesn't "look white" and therefore is subject to persecution.

Mexico - 1986
Director - Ricardo Franco

A U.S.-Mexico co-production about "A migrant gringo who wished he was from this side of the border." Also known by its U.S. title "In 'n Out."

Mexico - 1981
Director - Fernando Duran Rojas

The Bracero Program was a U.S.-Mexico bilateral agreement to send Mexican laborers to the United States to work during the Second World War when there was a shortage of domestic labor. "Bracero" roughly translates to "person with arms", or "working arms," which leaves little to the imagination. The program lasted from 1942 until roughly 1964. Ironically after the war, the Eisenhower administration approved and deployed "Operation Wetback" in 1954 to deport large numbers of Mexican immigrants who were in the country "illegally." This just goes to show that border enforcement is predicated on U.S. need for cheap labor, nothing else.
One can only presume that Las Braceras were women who traveled north to find work, and this poster suggests that it wasn't working in the fields with their male comrades.

Mexico - 1986
Director - Alberto Mariscal
 I have been eagerly awaiting the relaease of Robert Rodriguez' Machete ever since the first post-Grindhouse rumors of a feature film. I'm feeling significantly less enthusiastic now that it has morphed into an all-star ensemble-cast mega-picture, but I'm still curious.This film, in both this poster and it's plot appear to be remarkably similar to Rodriguez film...
In Mauro (which I haven't seen; can't find it), ex-con Mauro (Mauricio/Maurice) gets out of prison and crosses the border in search of Johnny Ventura (Hugo Stiglitz) a drug smuggler who betrayed him because Maura was in love with Ventura's woman, Oralia. When he finds Ventura he takes his revenge and returns to Mexico with Oralia to live in peace.

Mexico - 1979
Director -Alejandro Galindo
Pretty straighforward title on this one, but it's hard to find any real information on the plot, English or Spanish.

This is just a sampler of many, many Mexican movies about undocumented U.S.-Mexico border crossing. Perhaps not so strangely, there are far fewer American films on this subject.

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