In 1942, the US and Mexican governments created the Bracero Agreement, allowing Mexican agricultural workers to come into the United States for a limited time, to provide farm workers while the US was involved in World War II. The program was extended as a series of a series of laws and diplomatic agreements that finally ended in 1964. Probably the most famous popular memorial to the broad program was a poem by Woodie Guthrie, "the last great song he would write," after hearing about a plane crash in Los Gatos, which was reported as a flight full of nameless "deportees." A decade later, a young school teacher/folk singer named Martin (or Marty) Hoffman put the words to music, and Pete Seeger made the song popular, with numerous covers performed and recorded since. 65 years after the crash, those "deportees" were finally named, and that tombstone for "28 Mexican citizens" replaced with the names of those who died. [more inside]
"No wonder we react so viscerally to the 'ching-chong, ching-chong' schoolyard taunt. To attack our language, our ability to sound 'normal,' is to attack our ability to be normal. It's to attack everything we've worked for." An essay by Arthur Chu on feigning a Chinese accent for work and ridding oneself of an accent for life. [more inside]
Chinatown Sartorialist. "We saw them at Portsmouth Square and frantically made a beeline for them, both in a brown, earthy palette with matching cheetah sweaters and furry hats."
A comic on food and feeling like a repository of ethnic food advice instead of a person, by Malaysian-born artist Shing Yin Khor. Directly informed by Soleil Ho's essay "Craving the Other". “Oh, you’re Vietnamese?” they’d ask. “I love pho!” And then the whispered question—“Am I saying that right?”
Home Truths: Domestic Workers in California (PDF). 2012's groundbreaking National Domestic Worker Survey was conducted in 14 cities; the sample analyzed in this report includes 631 domestic workers (nannies, caregivers, housecleaners) in four metropolitan areas in California: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. [more inside]
"My first taste of Europe. My first realisation that a border is just a line – you cross it and nothing changes. No, everything changes. You are in another world, which is both exactly the same and entirely different." When you leave a country to live somewhere else, where is home?
Rape in the Fields is a Frontline documentary that explores the persistent allegations that female agricultural workers in the U.S. are frequently sexually assaulted and harassed by supervisors who exploit their (often undocumented) immigrant status. Victims typically do not seek help from US law enforcement, either out of fear that they will be fired, deported or worse, or from a lack of understanding of U.S. law. Reviews: Popmatters. NY Times [more inside]
A year ago this August, 72 migrant workers -- 58 men and 14 women -- 'were on their way to the US border when they were murdered by a drug gang at a ranch in northern Mexico, in circumstances that remain unexplained. Since then, a group of Mexican journalists and writers have created' a "Day of the Dead-style Virtual Altar" Spanish-language website, 72migrantes.com, to commemorate each of the victims, some of whom have never been identified. The New York Review of Books has English translations of five of their profiles. [more inside]
In the 1960's, 70's and 80's, urban decay and high crime rates caused retail chain supermarkets to flee New York City. (google books link) Korean immigrants filled the gap with corner grocery stores. For nearly two decades they were ubiquitous -- symbols of the group's ongoing quest to achieve the American Dream. But 30 years later, Where Did The Korean Greengrocers Go? [more inside]
“I could not understand what was happening,” Mr. Sherpa said. “This man, my partner from my own country, he’s trying to kill me. He was a crazy man, like he didn’t know me. He said nothing — he just kept chopping me.”
Suheir Hammad, a Palestinian-American poet and activist now based in New York, writes about being a Muslim immigrant and also a woman challenging conventions. Spotted by Russell Simmons for Def Poetry Jam, she has performed pieces about love in the time of war, exoticising beauty, and a touching ode to her father, among many others. Suheir has just produced and released her first feature film Salt of This Sea, up for the Cannes Films Festival and possibly an Oscar, and recently performed in Ramallah for the 2009 Palestinian Festival of Literature.
Remember Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement Julie Myers , the immigration chief who had some controversy during her tenure and introduced “operation scheduled departure” where illegal immigrants would turn themselves in and who’s organization was refered to (in so many words) as the gestapo by (Dem) Illinois Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez? Yeah, she resigned. [more inside]
The Princess of Nebraska premiered on YouTube this weekend (unrated by MPAA, but 18A+ rating, but on YouTube, so maybe mild NSFW). Often focusing on Chinese immigrants in America and culture gaps (NPR interview; text and audio) between both their new country and across generations, director Wayne Wang has returned to his roots after several more traditional Hollywood movies (Wayne Wang Is Missing). (Known for "Chan Is Missing" and "The Joy Luck Club", he has made movies such as "Maid in Manhattan" recently.) "Princess" is intended as a double feature with traditionally released "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers," "Princess" might "be the first feature feature film by a major director to premiere" only on the internet. Both are based on short stories by Yiyun Li.
Heated controversy over cousin marriages in Britain. The Guardian argues it's fine, legal in the UK for centuries, done by Darwin, HG Wells and Queen Victoria; and a 2002 study (prev) found little increased risk. But in Bradford, England, where half of babies born are to ethnically Pakistani parents, cousin marriage is very common -- as high as 70% in that community. Bradford, with 1% of British population, has 70 youths with terminal disorders which lead to dementia-type illnesses – eight per cent of the UK total. Should the government ban cousin marriage? Encourage genetic testing? Or keep its mouth shut? [more inside]
The nationalist Swiss People's Party (who garnered 26% of the vote in the last elections) is proposing a deportation policy reminiscent of Nazi-era practices. Under the plan, entire families would be expelled if their children are convicted of a violent crime, drug offense or benefits fraud. And get a load of their black sheep poster campaign, or their 2004 poster, with the dreaded black hand reaching for (gasp!) a Swiss passport. Yodel-odel-ay-eeeeeee-who?
I'm a Jewish Yankee Doodle Dandy and other Yiddish sheet music on topics ranging from the Dreyfus affair to interreligious romance. How Broadway evolved from Yiddish theater.
Engineering Perfect Americans Were your immigrant ancestors considered genetically predisposed to become criminals? Were your mixed-ethnic ancestors thought to be polluting the nation's 'germ-plasm'? The Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement presents a well-put-together online exhibit/walkthrough of this disturbing vein in American history.
Communication Breakdown is a problem that often prevents doctors from treating immigrant patients effectively. Language and cultural barriers prevent patients from understanding doctors instructions, sharing their symptoms of illness, and even from being examined by the doctor in cases where religious beliefs prohibit contact with someone of the opposite gender.
Mexico publishes Migrant/Illegal Immigrant Guide A new comic-book-style guide for migrants produced by the Mexican government is designed to help immigrants cross the border illegally into the United States. (NPR) This is proving a little controversial. Deaths are common on the crossing.
Living with a Redneck Neighbor. What happens when a Vietnamese redneck moves in next door? You log all of his quirks and disasters (including setting the entire garden on fire) and put it all up on your Web site, of course! Complete with pictures.