My first impressions as I viewed the small houses and open air markets in Mexico were probably similar to every other American before me. In a short time, I changed my opinion.
I was graced with my time in Mexico long before I had the pleasure of seeing the acclaimed movie, El Norte. Only three or four movies I have seen in my lifetime would I consider as an experience and not just a movie, El Norte is one of them.
El Norte (The North) is a grand drama produced by Gregory Nava in Pan America. It is considered the hands down best movie ever produced in Central America. The immigrants of South and Central America and those of Mexico are not only depicted accurately in this film but they could learn from it as well.
The film is fictional but has a reality to it that cannot be contended.
It is similar to the experiences of countless Latinos who enter this country illegally and legally. Its impact did not go unnoticed by the National Film Registry where it was selected by the Library of Congress in 1995. It was also nominated for an Oscar and won several other prestigious awards along its glowing path.
The plot of El Norte is based on the travels of a young brother and sister team who endeavor to overcome every obstacle set before them to immigrate (illegally) to the United States. The two siblings come from a Central American village of Mayan Indians. Their life there was simple and they were poor but all they ever loved was also there. ,
Driven by the dream of a place where opportunity abounds and equality reigns they cross hundreds of miles of open desserts and long dreary roads in Mexico.
They were robbed, raped, tricked, swindled and lied to but pass on undaunted still reaching for their dreams. With nothing left to lose they make the final crossing into the land into America by crawling on hands and knees for miles through a sewer duct from Mexico to San Diego. The heart-wrenching struggle they encounter is not just about making money but it is about making impossible adjustments to a culture not only foreign to them but completely undesirable.
They see Americans in a great a race gain everything but who seem to appreciate nothing.
As an American who loves his country, this film stood as an indictment against our shallowness and preoccupation with everything that is ersatz and meaningless.
I could never argue with the great principles this nation was founded upon but this movie only served to remind me that we are a long way from the founding principles today.
Although the present issue of immigration in this country cannot be ignored this film reminds us that there is an untold side to the issue. The lesson here is that it is not just our borders that need to be protected in a reasonable and rational manner but it is our hearts as well. Would be immigrants may want to consider that economic advantage is not all there is to life.
Americans may want to remember that there was a time when that was not all there was theirs.