Things That Matter

This Exhibition Told The Stories Of Mexicans And Mexican-Americans Who Were Illegally Deported In The ’20s And ’30s

Courtesy Boyle Heights Museum

An exhibition in Boyle Heights, Calif. revisited the illegal deportation of millions of Mexicans and Mexican Americans during the Great Depression through rare archival footage and personal stories. “Aqui Estamos Y No Nos Vamos (We Are Here and We Won’t Leave): Fighting Mexican Removal Since the 1930s” focuses on the community in Boyle Heights that fought against the unconstitutional deportations.

This topic is very close to my heart. My great-grandparents, my grandmother and her siblings experienced the Mexican Repatriation firsthand —  they were deported to Mexico even though they were U.S. citizens. I have written extensively on the topic ever since I found out about it in 2015.

Though the Mexican Repatriation happened more than 80 years ago, it’s a historical fact that is rarely discussed, which is one reason this exhibition is so important. It’s also crucial to recognize that the racism Latinos faced then has persisted and continues to this day.

The show is set up chronologically, beginning with a look at Latinos living in Boyle Heights in the 1920s.

CREDIT: Courtesy Boyle Heights Museum

“Boyle Heights existed relatively undisturbed in the 1920s as a largely immigrant neighborhood that supplied much needed labor for surrounding industries,” the exhibit explains. It goes on to say that Latinos in Southern California were making a decent living with modest pay. Many of them had good jobs and homes and were able to provide a better life to their family.

Many Mexicans that moved to the U.S. during this time were able to work here because men were fighting in World War I, and employers desperately needed workers. The Immigration Act provided legal work for Mexicans for several years. This stability of work and money allowed Mexicans to flourish and be productive members of society. They also didn’t relocate just to California, but to various parts of the U.S.

The Great Depression changed everything. With millions of Americans out of work, Mexicans were targeted, along with their U.S.-born children.

CREDIT: Courtesy Boyle Heights Museum

The exhibition does an amazing job of showing what the culture was like back then. Images like the one above is a testament to the discriminatory conditions that Latinos faced in the United States.

The government intentionally called the removal of Latinos “repatriation” rather than deportation.

CREDIT: Courtesy Boyle Heights Museum

Curators of this show detail the terminology that the government used back then, and why they did so.

DEPORTATION: commonly known as forced return migration to Mexico, usually as a result of being captured by U.S. immigration officials and being identified as illegally in the United States (or without proper documents).”

REPATRIATION: commonly known as ‘voluntary’ return migration, this is the term most commonly used to describe most departures in the period.  Involves a wide range of situations, from those who left on their own at the start of the economic depression when they lost their jobs to those pressured later on to leave on organized trains funded by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.”

My father tells me that when this happened to my grandmother and her family, that they had no choice. They were told, “Take this stipend and go to Mexico, or we will do it the hard way.” So, in essence, a “volunteer” relocation back to your native country (even though million of U.S.-born children had never been to Mexico) is technically not considered illegal.

This telegram from 1931 almost sounds like it could apply to ICE raids today.

CREDIT: Courtesy Boyle Heights Museum

“Figure four hundred thousand deportable aliens,” states the telegram. “We can pick them all up through police and sheriff channels … You advise please as to method of getting rid.” Truly appalling.

There was even a corrido written about what it’s like to be deported.

Hermanos Banuelos – Topic / YouTube

This portion of the exhibition, which is all available online, really brought me to tears. The song above, “El Deportado” by Los Hermanos Bañuelos, paints a picture like no other. Here’s a portion of the lyrics, translated in English:

“I am going to tell you gentlemen / Everything I had to suffer / Since I left my nation / Since I left my nation / To come to this country / It may have been ten at night / A train begins to whistle / I heard my mother say / There comes that terrible train / That is taking my son / Goodbye, my dear mother / Give me your blessing / I am leaving to a foreign land / I am leaving to a foreign land / Where there is no revolution.”

The exhibition also features interviews with people that were part of the repatriation.

CREDIT: Courtesy Boyle Heights Museum

Emilia Castañeda, a Boyle Heights resident who was born in 1926 (two years before my grandmother) in Los Angeles, recalled what it was like to leave for Mexico with her father.

“After my mother died, I guess my dad was pretty sad,” Castañeda told the curators at the Boyle Heights Museum. “Here he was, left with a family, no wife, no work, and living off of welfare. He had a trade and could work, if the work was available.  Maybe he thought he should go back to his country.”

Castañeda returned to the U.S. in 1944.

“Well, I don’t like [this whole idea of repatriation],” Castañeda said. “I don’t think I’ll ever like it, not after the way I was made to suffer. I feel that this country should have done something for its citizens instead of getting rid of them the way they did.”

The exhibition happened on October 1 through December 1 2017 at the Boyle Heights Museum, located at 2102 E 1st St, Los Angeles.

The show is also available online. Click here to experience the virtual exhibition.

READ: Ernesto Galarza Is The Chicano Pioneer That You Probably Never Read About In Your History Books

Did you know about the Mexican Repatriation? Let us know your thoughts by sharing this story and commenting below! 

The Statue Of Liberty Gets Arrested By ICE In A New Las Vegas Mural That Speaks To Our Inhumane Immigration Policies

Things That Matter

The Statue Of Liberty Gets Arrested By ICE In A New Las Vegas Mural That Speaks To Our Inhumane Immigration Policies

Mural by Izaac Zevalking / Photo by Jesse Hudson

A mural showing the Statue of Liberty being handcuffed by immigration enforcement officers has been unveiled in Las Vegas, amid rancour and anger over Donald Trump’sharsh immigration policies.

The mural, titled “Chained Migration,” was unveiled late last month in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Mural by Izaac Zevalking / Photo by Jesse Hudson

Since then, it has caused a lot of dialogue between those who support it and those who don’t. 

The mural is a 20×50 art installation that depicts the Statue of Liberty handcuffed and bet over the hood of an ICE patrol car. It was created by Izaac Zevalking, also known as Recycled Propaganda, a political artist that aims to create art influenced by history and current events. Zevalking himself is an immigrant from the UK. Zevalking is using the Statue of Liberty, who is considered a beacon of hope for immigrants, to demonstrate how the harmful rhetoric used against them is harming the American Dream.

In an interview with KTNV Las Vegas, Zevalking explains that the goal of the mural is to create a conversation about immigration in the United States. “I want people just to think about the issue. Wherever that thought leaves you. Wherever that conversation with someone else leaves you. I think it needs to be discussed more in human terms.”

Although some came to the internet to praise Zevalking for his mural, others were quick to disagree with his artwork. 

This Twitter user used the infamous MS13 gang as her reasoning for this mural being shameful. Her comment imitates the language that Trump uses in his statements referring to those who migrate into the United States. She plays into the stereotype that all people who are immigrating to the U.S are dangerous gang members. 

Some on Twitter were quick to claim they’d happily paint it over.

In the replies, a Twitter user suggested they paint over the mural in protest. 

However, Recycled Propaganda clapped back, suggesting that if it gets painted over they keep on bringing it back.

The art piece could not have been more timely given the recent comments made by Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

After being asked in an interview with NPR if the words of Emma Lazarus are part of the American ethos, Cuccinelli replied, adding a line to the poem, “They certainly are – give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” 

The original reads as, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

Recently, the Trump administration decided to make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain a Green Card if they receive government aid, such as food stamps or Medicaid. Cuccinelli is a big defender of this policy, so it is not surprising that these comments about Lazarus’ sonnet were made. 

When immigrants are being discussed in politics, it is usually done so in ways that strips them of their humanity.

When folks migrate to the United States, it is often done so out of desperation and necessity. Immigrants come with nothing but a backpack filled with the essentials. They come to work low-paying jobs and because of their status, it is difficult for them to get the assistance they need for issues like healthcare and food assistance. To ask immigrants to come to the United States and to be self-sufficient only treat them with very little dignity is unfair.

When describing this policy, Cuccinelli uses words like a burden when describing immigrants who need public assistance. After his initial remarks about the poem, Cuccinelli said on CNN that the poem was originally referring to Europeans who migrated to the United States. 

The artist, who is an immigrant from the UK points out that America is a very different place for white immigrants.

KTNV Channel 13 Las Vegas / YouTube

“I personally wasn’t born in America. I was born in the UK and I don’t ever feel attacked as an immigrant and I think that’s cause my skin is white,” Zevalking says. 

There is a stark difference between the ways European immigrants and Latin American immigrants are treated in the United States and Zevalking is tapping into that notion with his mural, “Chained Migration.” He is acknowledging his privilege as a European immigrant and using it to shed light on how criminalizing it is for non-white immigrants living in the United States.

Activists Are Warning That The Guard Running His Truck Through Protesters Is Not Going To Be The Last

Things That Matter

Activists Are Warning That The Guard Running His Truck Through Protesters Is Not Going To Be The Last

People across the U.S. are stunned by a viral Twitter video showing a contract Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guard driving his pick-up truck through a crowd of protesters. The protesters, part of the Jewish activist organization Never Again Action, posted videos of the assault on Twitter and it has sparked outrage at the actions of law enforcement at the scene. Here’s what happened.

Captain Thomas Woodworth has been placed on administrative leave following the incident, according to authorities.

Credit: @theplaceilove / Twitter

“The incident which occurred last night is currently being investigated by the Rhode Island State Police,” a statement to the Boston Globe read. “Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility Warden Daniel Martin is also conducting a top to bottom review of the incident, Wyatt correctional officers’ response, and the Wyatt’s protocols regarding protest activities outside of the facility. Captain Thomas Woodworth has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the independent investigation being conducted by the Rhode Island State Police, and the Wyatt’s internal investigation.”

People are spreading his information as far and wide as they can to shame him for his actions.

Credit: @AntiFlashGordon / Twitter

The video has been shared all over social media and people have reacted with shock and anger. Other activists are pointing out that the use of a car to ram protesters is becoming a more common thought and occurrence than in recent history.

Others are using the video as a moment to question what exactly is happening inside the detention centers they are protesting.

Credit: @nat_lern / Twitter

People have been trying to get people’s attention to the humanitarian crisis in the detention centers. There is a real concern that if guards can run their car through a group of lawful protesters, what are they doing to migrants in detention?

Activists captured video of an ICE guard using his pick-up truck to break through a group of protesters in Rhode Island.

Credit: @NeverAgainActn / Twitter

Protesters were stationed outside of the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Rhode Island. During the protest, a pick-up truck drives up the protesters and honks the horn before driving through the crowd of protesters. However, the truck was not the only time the protesters were assaulted during the protest.

During the incident, law enforcement at the scene used pepper spray on the protesters to break up the crowd.

Credit: @NeverAgainActn / Twitter

“We will not be deterred by the violence that was taken against us last night,” a spokesperson for Never Again Action told NBC News. “People are being harmed in ICE custody every day. This is exactly why we are doing what we’re doing.”

People are horrified at the blatant attack on peaceful protesters.

Credit: @mcastimovies / Twitter

The video is a chilling reminder of the violence we have seen against protesters in recent times. Two years ago, the world watched in shock as a white supremacist ran his car into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia during the Unite the Right rally. The attack claimed one life, Heather Heyer, in the name of hate. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured during the incident on Wednesday night.

Five people were hospitalized after the guard ran over protesters.

Two people were hospitalized because of the truck driving into the crowd and three people were hospitalized for the pepper spray. The whole incident has not deterred the organization from standing against ICE and its detention practices.

READ: More Than 100 Protesters Were Arrested In New York City For Blocking One Of The Busiest Streets In The City

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