Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Seeing the Invisible People and Mexican Repatriation Act - Part 4

I watched a movie last night on TCM called Double Harness from 1933. It was the story of two sisters, one who could not control her spending and the other who believed that marriage was a business. She wanted to marry a playboy and help redeem him in order for him to achieve his potential.  There were no poor people to be seen, even the butler had it good.  It was a fantasy. In recognition of Women’s History Month we need to look at Florence Thompson.  Florence was not living in a fantasy but the reality of the depression. 

You might not know her name but you might know the photographer that made her famous, Dorothea Lange and her classic photo “Migrant Mother.”

Florence Thompson by Dorothea Lange

Under assignment from the U.S.government, Dorothea Lange and other photographers documented the people of the country during the Depression and into World War II.  Here are a few examples of photography taken during that time, some are Lange’s and other are possibly from the governmental archives.

The performer is Tom Waits doing his rendition of Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?

There are many women who have been inspired by Dorothea Lange work and have documented people in plain sight. Holly Pickett has a gallery of her photojournalism both within and outside of the country. Her blog, The Pickett Lens,  contains photos and commentary about her experiences. Amanda Lucier also documents the everyday as memories held in trust for future times.

1930’s Mexican Repatriation Act

Not all of the citizens of the country were Anglo-American. Depressions and Recessions bring out the best or the worst in people. Although there was equality in the number of Americans thrown in financial chaos old behaviors and racism rose to discriminate against people of color.

There was a force removal of Mexican workers and Mexican-American citizens to Mexico. To be specific, not just undocumented workers or visitors were affected by this act. People who were born and raised in the United States and who were of Mexican decent were force to relocate to Mexico.  Approximately 2.5 million people were removed from their homes.  California alone relocated 400,000. This was done in Texas, Illinois, and Michigan and other states as well. 

The reason for the relocation was that it was felt that Anglo-Americans, primarily male, needed and deserved work above anyone else. You can read an edited version of the events or the full text from the Texas State Historical Association. In 2006 USA Today had an article about the force expulsion of Mexican American citizens and the possibility of an apology.

The state of California has already provided their apology:

8722.  The State of California apologizes to those individuals described in Section 8721 for the fundamental violations of their basic civil liberties and constitutional rights committed during the period of illegal deportation and coerced emigration. The State of California regrets the suffering and hardship those individuals and their families endured as a direct result of the government sponsored Repatriation Program of the 1930s.

2009 New Voices of the Diaspora

Bloggers that write about topics that reflect their heritage and interest are on mission. Over at Latino Politics blog there is a look at the financial crisis from the point of view of Latino/a citizens and immigrant Latinos. How is the housing crisis maybe affecting Latinos:

The Latino community has been one of the hardest hit by the recent foreclosure crisis. A recent Pew Center report indicated that nearly one in ten Hispanic homeowners say that they have missed a mortgage payment or were unable to make a full payment in the last year. In addition, 3% say that they have received a foreclosure notice according to the Pew Center survey, and over a third of those surveyed are worried that their home may go into foreclosure.

Another good post concerns the need for attention and a bit of that stimulus money to reach the Latino community.

Wendy Carrillo would like there to be more discussions about the current conflicts between Latinos and African Americans. The session she attended didn’t quiet start the dialog:

A visiting African American attendee who introduced himself as a former gang banger turned at-risk youth mentor asked the panel why they were not talking about the real issues of race tensions and why much of their talk was based on books, not real life in L.A?

Latina Lista talks about the duality of two similar but separate groups of people being constantly seen as one dimensional:

The combining of the Hispanic immigrant struggle with U.S.-born Latinos' struggle has created a touchy situation with our African American peers. When we marched in solidarity with our undocumented hermanos and hermanas and equated those marches with the civil rights marches of the African Americans, we drew the ire of African Americans who said it wasn't the same.

And to a point, they were right.

African Americans were never fighting for citizenship — just the full rights of already being a citizen. In that respect, the African American struggle and the Latino struggle — U.S.-born Latino struggle — are the same.

As both groups position themselves to deal with less employment, housing and access to basic needs this is one discussion that needs to happen sooner rather than later. If not in real time perhaps via a blog to blog national hook-up.

For More Information Check Out:

  • Daring To Look by Anne Whiston Spirn on the photography and history of Ms. Lange
  • The Online Archive of California has a collection of images and information on Lange’s career.
  • Florence Thompson was born on an Indian Reservation, you can listen to a short description of her at the time or read a transcript at Living History Farm.
  • You can view more Depression era and World War II images at the Library of Congress American Memory collection from Lange, Walker Evans, Gordon Parks and other great photographers.

Contributing Editor Gena Haskett writes at Out On The Stoop and PCCLibTech

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