Things That Matter

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

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! 

Netflix’s ‘Gentefied’ Renewed For Season 2, Fans Overjoyed


Netflix’s ‘Gentefied’ Renewed For Season 2, Fans Overjoyed

gentefied / Instagram

Any and all news is welcomed right now and Netflix came through this week. “Gentefied” is coming back for a second season and this is absolutely not a drill. Soon we will be back in Boyle Heights with Ana, Chris, Erik, and the rest of the cast we have come to love so much.

Netflix has confirmed “Gentefied” for a second season.

The show is a fan favorite for Netflix with praise and love pouring in for the groundbreaking show. “Gentefied” is set in Boyle Heights and it is all about the fight against gentrification. The show premiered this year to big fanfare and excitement from Latino Netflix users. The show, created by Marvin Lemus and Linda Yvette Chávez, was picked up for an eight-episode run of the 30-minute show.

The show is one of the most relevant portrayals of the Latino experience in the 21st century.

The show highlights the plight of gentrification on communities across the U.S. Boyle Heights in Los Angeles has been the center of growing tension as the neighborhood slowly gentrifies. Rising rents have forced some residents and businesses to close and leave because of the changing demographic in the neighborhood.

Hearts are full as everyone celebrates the news of a whole new season.

The show originally premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival as a digital series. Lemus and Chávez debuted the show and it was an instant hit with festival-goers. After three years of waiting, the show was released by Netflix and became a national hit. The show has shone a light on the cost of gentrification for more Americans than knew about it before the show aired.

Low key, it has made for perfect binge-watching during this quarantine.

There isn’t a whole lot any of us can do at the moment. Most of us are at home because of self-isolation and social distancing guidelines designed to save lives during the pandemic. Might as well us some of your time to watch and support and very important moment in our community. This kind of representation is something that Latinos have been asking for.

While excited, some fans want more, like a cross-over with Starz’s “Vida.”

Now, just to be clear, we are not concerned with what it takes to make this happen. Netflix and Starz can come up with the actual plan. We are just going to be here waiting to be heard so we can all have the kind of cross-over the world deserves. Just imagine a chance for those two shows to collide in Latino excellence.

Now we wait for an air date.

We are patient. We will be here when you are ready. All you have to do is let us know when to tune in and you know we are coming through.

READ: I Watched ‘Gentefied’ On Netflix And These Are My Brutally Honest Thoughts

Trump Uses Coronavirus Pandemic To Announce He’s Suspending All Immigration To The U.S. And Here’s What You Need To Know

Things That Matter

Trump Uses Coronavirus Pandemic To Announce He’s Suspending All Immigration To The U.S. And Here’s What You Need To Know

Win McNamee / Getty

Donald Trump ran on a campaign pledge to severely limit the rights of migrants and refugees attempting to reach the United States. In office, he wasted no time restricting authorized and unauthorized immigration, with travel bans for citizens of a number of Muslim-majority nations, cutting the numbers of refugees the U.S. accepts, and pushing ahead with plans to build a wall on the southern border.

Now amid a global health pandemic, the president is looking to scapegoat migrant and refugee communities by banning all applications for immigration to the U.S. The move is largely seen as symbolic, however, since the U.S. has already largely stopped processing immigration applications due to reduced capacity.

The White House on Monday announced that President Trump would be signing an executive order to temporarily ban all immigration to the U.S.

President Trump tweeted on Monday that he will pass an executive order to suspend immigration to the United States, claiming that he is seeking to protect jobs in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. Democrats were quick to criticize it as a “dumb move” and pointed to testing as a safe way to reopen the economy. Not to mention that the U.S. is already home to the largest number of cases around the globe.

Trump tweeted: “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”

Obviously, since he made the major announcement over Twitter, there is very little clarity over what immigration programs might be impacted. And the White House still hasn’t offered any guidance on what Trump meant by the tweet.

Trump has taken credit for his restrictions on travel to the U.S. from China and hard-hit European countries, arguing it contributed to slowing the spread of the virus in the U.S. But he has yet to extend those restrictions to other nations now experiencing virus outbreaks.

Although the announcement has left many in shock, the U.S. was already severely limiting immigration due to the pandemic.

Already, much of the immigration flow into the country has been paused during the coronavirus pandemic, as the government has temporarily stopped processing all non-worker visas. And, the executive order in its current form will exempt seasonal foreign farm worker visas, one of the largest sources of immigration at the moment.

The administration has already restricted foreign visitors from China, Europe, Canada and Mexico, and has paused processing for immigrants trying to come into the U.S. on non-worker visas because of office closures.

But given the usual chaotic roll out of Trump Administration directives, we still don’t know how long this suspension will last nor what will happen with the applicants already being processed.

Thomas Homan, Trump’s former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told Reuters: “It’s really not about immigration. It’s about the pandemic and keeping our country safer while protecting opportunities for unemployed Americans.”

And it seems the fact that the U.S. already has the largest number of cases on Earth is completely lost on the president.

As of early April, the United States is now home to the largest number of confirmed Covid-19 infections on the planet. There are more than 800,000 cases confirmed by testing and more than 44,000 deaths associated with the virus. In fact, the U.S. now makes up for nearly a third of all Covid-19 infections and a quarter of all deaths.

If Trump wants to make an impact and help flatten the curve in the United States, he should stop promoting the anti-lockdown protests instead of scapegoating immigrant and refugee communities.

Democrats and migrant right’s groups quickly slammed the president’s proposal as xenophobic and counter-productive.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California, also a former 2020 presidential candidate, responded to Trump’s tweet as well, saying the move was “shamelessly politicizing this pandemic to double down on his anti-immigrant agenda.”

“Trump failed to take this crisis seriously from day 1,” she wrote. “His abandonment of his role as president has cost lives. And now, he’s shamelessly politicizing this pandemic to double down on his anti-immigrant agenda. Enough, Mr. President. The American people are fed up.”

Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, a Democrat who ran for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, said in response, “We don’t need to protect America from immigrants. We need to protect her from you.” Now that’s a pretty legit clapback.