Popular culture offers a different way to evaluate the immigration experience

2

EL PASO — Immigration on the U.S.-Mexico borderland is portrayed in popular culture as criminal and illegal to audiences that are disconnected from the reality of immigrants who cross the border to save their families from poverty and widespread violence.

“Would you risk everything to come to the Unites States?” Dr. Richard D. Pineda asked an audience at the University of Texas at El Paso.

He followed this thought with the example of an immigration raid in northern Iowa. Workers at several meat-packing plants were apprehended and taken to deportation facilities.

Dr. Richard Pineda. (Courtesy of Andres Gonzalez)

Dr. Richard Pineda. (Courtesy of Andres Gonzalez)

“Even though that force was essentially gutted on that day, they’ve been replaced,” he added, explaining that those plants now show record outputs, “and I can assure you those are not workers working in high level jobs, but workers working for a minimum amount of pay.”

The economic incentive for immigration is too high in the United States and a variety of tasks require a “disposable workforce,” one that comes in the form of undocumented immigrants, explained Pineda, an associate professor of communication at UTEP.

No matter how much U.S. policy in immigration is modified, immigration to the U.S. is a fact of life, he said. Despite efforts on the part of the government and “a baker’s dozen of law enforcement agencies and entities it is impossible to remove undocumented immigrants from the United States,” said Dr. Pineda.

Pineda said that popular culture offers a unique insight into a society’s perspective. Popular music, television, and literature offer a way to evaluate an immigration experience, he said, however most media emphasize the negative.

The attention paid to immigration most often focuses on those who are entering the country without proper documentation. Expanding on this idea, Pineda said Los Lobos, an American Chicano rock band offers a unique insight, “yet we never think about the intricacy of the lyrics.”

The well-known television series Ugly Betty is “one of the most interesting offers in contemporary pop culture,” he said, as an example of transnational media.

Los Lobos — “Road To Gila Bend” Lyrics

Made Nogales over night

through the desert in yellow light

missing everything I left behind

Will they see me coming ?

Do they know I’m running?

Got to Tucson in the dark

Keeping eye out for the law

500 miles or more

from a broken heart

Can they see me coming?

Do they know I’m running?

It’s a long long way to Gila Bend

One silver dollar in my hand

Road twists and turns is there no end

When I get there I can lay my head in Gila Bend

Saw a church along the way

A place to hide, to kneel and pray

help me make it maybe one more day

Can they see me coming?

Do they know I’m running?

It’s a long long way to Gila Bend

One silver dollar in my hand

Road twists and turns is there no end

When I get there I can lay my head in Gila Bend

Comments

comments

Share.

2 Comments

  1. George Thomson

    Thanks for this article. I was searching for the topic to use in a class I teach called “Popular Culture and came across it at another source. Now I see it in the best border source, boderzine. Thanks

Leave A Reply

Don't miss a thing! Signup here for unique coverage of border life you won't find anywhere else

Join our mailing list to receive weekly news and commentary on Border Life

I am a..

Thank you! You have successfully subscribed.