Things That Matter

Meet “Americanos,” U.S. Citizens Who Choose To Live In Mexico

In a photo series titled “Americanos,” Mexican photographer Alejandro Cartagena explores the lives of those with U.S. citizenship, either through birth or naturalization, that choose to live in Mexico. Cartagena’s photos capture a population of “Americanos” who don’t fit in neatly to the U.S.-Mexico immigration narrative. Mitú talked with Cartagena to learn a little more about the people in the photographs and his inspiration for the project.

Alejandro Cartagena says he wants to give people a new perspective on the American Dream.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

“I would only photograph those who are living in Mexico and somehow think of their American citizenship as a dormant option,” Cartagena told mitú in an email. “I wanted to show how being American is a dream to many, but not always as the media shows it.”

According to Cartagena, there are a number of people in Mexico who are U.S.-born or U.S. citizens through birthright who see their American citizenship as a backup option.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

“My wife is a U.S. citizen born here in Mexico, but because she has not lived more than five years in U.S. territories she cannot pass along her citizenship to her children,” Cartagena told mitú, explaining how the photo project came about. “This got me asking friends about this idea and found many had friends who had done this and some were actually U.S. citizens, but I did not even know it!” According to Cartagena, there is a sizable population of Mexicans with U.S. citizenship through birth or naturalization that take advantage of their citizenship to give their children a backup plan in the U.S.

But not all of the “Americanos” want to live in the U.S. In fact, some of them even obtain fake documents to make themselves legal Mexicans in the eyes of the law.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

“Most of them have actually never lived in the U.S. They were born there, but have lived their whole life in Mexico,” Cartagena told mitú. “The older people I photographed were even illegal in Mexico for a time. Back when Mexico did not permit [people] to have two citizenships, their parents registered them illegally as Mexican citizens in order for them to go to school and get medical care in Mexico.”

“The interesting part of this is that it was all systemized,” Cartagena told mitú. “They knew where and who to go to to get their fake Mexican birth certificates and what lawyers could make them be legal.”

Cartagena further explains that some of the “Americanos” that he photographed have received harassment from neighbors and classmates.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

“They get the question of why they don’t take advantage of being American and just move across the border. Some also get sh*t from border officers as to why they are living in Mexico if they are American,” Cartagena told mitú. “The parents of the children I photographed have to travel with hospital paperwork where they can prove to border patrol that they paid their hospital bills.”

“Their American citizenship was a burden, and for some of them, it still is,” Cartagena said.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

According to Cartagena, their U.S. citizenship makes moving around difficult. Many times, people with U.S. citizenship are interrogated as they try to cross the border since they are U.S. citizens living in Mexico as a Mexican national. Some have even had to obtain falsified documents so they can go to school and receive medical services.

One important fact to know is that “Americanos” live in Mexico as Mexican citizens and don’t use U.S. programs.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

“None use medical services in the U.S. or take advantage of any freebies they could have access to,” Cartagena explained to mitú. “They just want their child to have the option.”

Many of the older “Americanos” have spent time living in the U.S. and simply chose to move back to Mexico for the comfort.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

“Some moved there to study in high school, but just ‘didn’t like it,'” Cartagena said. “Some go back and forth everyday to work or study. Some just use their citizenship to go shopping for cheap stuff. I photographed someone who is, as she put it, kind of addicted to shopping cheap in the U.S., and she would do a trip just to get dish washing soup at Walmart.”

Cartagena says that “Americanos” live invisibly in Mexico, but the chance for dual citizenship with the U.S. is so alluring that they are willing to deal with the hassles.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

As far as those who have to travel with their hospital paperwork, Cartagena explains that it “seems to be a hassle, but they take it as part of being bi-nationals.”

For the photographer, it was important to make sure that his photos showed the multifaceted side to immigration and border issues that many never think about.

Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena
CREDIT: Courtesy of Alejandro Cartagena

“I want the pictures to show that border issues, the “American dream,” citizenship is not black and white and simple,” Cartagena told mitú. “A border is an imposed thing, but human necessities and family break down these borders all the time.”

You can see the full photo project here.


READ: Meet The Genius Behind These Playfully Creative Photos

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An Author Is Opening The Discussion On The Violent History In The U.S. Against Mexicans In Texas

Things That Matter

An Author Is Opening The Discussion On The Violent History In The U.S. Against Mexicans In Texas

@MonicaMnzMtz / Twitter

The history of Latinos in the U.S. dates back to before it was called the United States. Latinos have always inhabited many parts of what is now the United States of America. However, the recorded history of what happened to them while on this land is one that has often gone disputed and untold. However, in time, it is through oral history and fragments of documents and photographs that scholars have been able to complete the puzzle. Today’s experience of Latinos living in the current administration is just another addition to the story. 

Monica Muñoz Martinez, an assistant professor of American studies at Brown University, released a book last year titled “The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas,” and discussed the many ways the history of Latinos in the U.S. is complex and vital to remember. 

Credit: @nbcnews / Twitter

Martinez talked about her book in a recent interview on the public radio station WBUR. The program, which featured Muñoz Martinez, began by mentioning the increase in hate crimes against Latinos and how these crimes aren’t anything new, but something this community has been experiencing for a very long time. 

“One hundred years ago, anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican rhetoric fueled an era of racial violence by law enforcement and by vigilantes. But it’s also important to remember that this kind of sentiment, this rhetoric, also shapes policy,” Muñoz Martinez said on WBUR. “So 100 years ago, it shaped anti-immigrant policy like the 1924 Immigration Act. It also shaped policies like Jim Crow-style laws to segregate communities … and targeting Mexican Americans especially. There [were] efforts to keep American citizens, Mexican Americans, from voting. But there were also forced sterilization laws that were introduced, and U.S. Border Patrol was established in 1924. Our policing practices, our institutions today have deep roots in this period of racial violence.” 

Muñoz Martinez, who received a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University, also spoke about the Porvenir massacre — an attack against Mexican-Americans that isn’t widely known but was recently made into a film

Credit: @MonicaMnzMtz / Twitter

She called the attack of innocent people a “case of state-sanctioned violence that is really profound and reminding us [not only] of the kinds of injustices that people experienced, but also the injustices that continue to remain in communities and were carried by descendants who fought the injustice and have been working for generations to remember this history.”

Muñoz Martinez notes that it’s important to continue to talk openly about the atrocities against Latinos in the U.S. in order to understand the big picture of racism in the country, but also to realize how these experiences shape the community as well. 

Credit: @MonicaMnzMtz / Twitter

“Well, it’s difficult to teach these histories on their own. But it’s also deeply disturbing because students make connections.” Muñoz Martinez said on the radio show. “It prompts conversations about police violence today, police shootings on the border by Border Patrol agents. One of the cases that I write about in my book is the shooting of Concepcion García, who was a 9-year-old girl who was studying in Texas and became ill and crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico with her mother and her aunt to recover her. She was shot by a U.S. border agent.

“So when we teach these histories, it’s important to know that these kinds of injustices have lasting consequences, not only in shaping our institutions but shaping cultures and societies,” she added. “When we think about the impact of some of the cases from 100 years ago continuing to weigh heavy on people a century later, it’s a warning to us that we must heed. And we will have to work actively as a public. If we don’t call for public accountability, these patterns of violence are going to continue, and we will be working for a long time to remedy the kinds of violence that we’re seeing.”

For more information about Muñoz Martinez’s work, you don’t need to be a student at Brown University. All you need is a library card. 

Credit: @MonicaMnzMtz / Twitter

Her book “The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas” is available everywhere. You can buy it as well. You can also click here to listen to her entire interview on WBUR or follow her work at Refusing to Forget on Twitter, and her personal social media account as well

READ: A New Documentary Exposes The Massacre In Porvenir, Texas That Left 15 Mexican-Americans Dead

A Veteran And Former Border Agent Was Fired After He Found Out He Wasn’t Born In The U.S.

Things That Matter

A Veteran And Former Border Agent Was Fired After He Found Out He Wasn’t Born In The U.S.

@USBPChief / Twitter

If you’re Latino, have a Latin-sounding name, are protesting immigrant rights, or speak against immigration officials, or your employer, look out, there could be a target on your back. We mean that metaphorically, sort of, but all of the examples above have proven to be real. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other federal agencies are keeping tabs on all those individuals, and, if there’s anything suspicious in your record, you could face deportation. 

A Latino who worked for the border patrol for 18 years was fired after they probed into his background and found out he has a fraudulent U.S. birth certificate. 

Credit: @latimes / Twitter

This summer, Raul Rodriguez, a 51-year-old native of Texas, was told that he could no longer work for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He had been with the agency for 18 years, and also is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, but none of that mattered after government workers looked closely into his U.S. birth certificate, the Los Angeles Times reports. 

Last year, we reported that the government would be looking into birth certificates that were issued by midwives in border towns, including in Texas. 

Credit: @Centaur1207 / Twitter

It was last year that Latinos who were renewing their passports were getting denied due to specific details on their birth certificates. This controversy stems back to the Bush Administration based on investigations conducted by the government. The government claims that countless of fraudulent birth certificates were issued between the 1950s through the 1990s by midwives and physicians. These birth certificates in question occurred along the Texas-Mexico border. It is only now, under the Trump Administration that the officials have begun inquiring about this matter once again. 

Rodriguez is one of about 246 people that have had their U.S. citizenship overturned or have been deemed to have a suspicious birth certificate. Rodriguez only found out that he wasn’t actually born in the U.S. last year. 

Credit: @msn / Twitter

Rodriguez has always believed to be a U.S. citizen, but last year he attempted to help his brother apply for a U.S. passport. When Rodriguez provided his birth certificate to authorities, they inquired because the certificate said he was born via a midwife during the dates in question. What authorities suspected of Rodriguez was true. He was actually born in Matamoros, Mexico. 

Rodriguez recalled to KRGV News the moment U.S. officials presented him with his original birth certificate. “‘Have you ever seen it?’ I said, no. I’ve never seen it before. I’m almost 50 years old, and I’ve never seen it,” Rodriguez said. 

Rodriguez still couldn’t believe this claim was right, so he approached his dad, who lived in Mexico. His father, Margarito Rodriguez, confirmed that he was, in fact, born in Mexico. Rodriguez told the Los Angeles Times that this information was “his worst fear.” 

Rodriguez immediately applied to be a U.S. citizen, but his application was denied because he “lied” about being a U.S. citizen and because he voted illegally. 

Credit: @sethimaz_law / Twitter

It’s incredible that the U.S. can fault him for an action he never committed. Rodriguez didn’t issue the fraudulent birth certificate, he didn’t know he was born in Mexico, and he certainly didn’t think he was voting illegally because he didn’t realize he wasn’t a U.S. citizen. As KRGV News notes, a 1996 law prohibits a person from getting U.S. citizenship if they have lied about being a U.S. citizen. As of now, his case remains open, and officials are not commenting on the status. 

Now, Rodriguez is without a job, health insurance, and is risking losing his retirement benefits.

Credit: @starandstripes / Twitter

As of now, the Los Angeles Times reports that they are remaining in their Texas home but are too scared to travel anywhere else because they fear being stopped at checkpoints. 

The worse part is that now Rodriguez fears the same people he worked alongside for years. 

“Every time I see a cop or a police officer, I kind of stiffen up or get nervous to see Border Patrol. These are people that I worked with, and now I have to fear these people,” he told KRGV News. 

While less than 300 people have been flagged for having a questionable birth certificate, it’s too early to say how many of them will be deported. 

READ: The U.S. Government Is Questioning The Citizenship Of Some Latinos Along The Texas/Mexico Border