The issues raised in this video are especially relevant today with the stalled debate on immigration reform taking place in Congress.
The video is based primarily on the work of James and Nancy Duncan. The two sources used were, Wylie p. 71 – 80, “Landscape as Text,” and “Landscapes of Privilege: The Politics of the Aesthetic in an American Suburb,” 2003, with particular emphasis on “Latino Labor and the Politics of Disappearance.”
Even though “Landscapes of Privilege” deals primarily with events that take place in Mount Kisco and Bedford, New York, the issues and conclusions could be applied to many middle- to upper-class communities in the U.S. For example, according to Graciela Heyman, executive director of the Westchester Hispanic Coalition, “It’s a class thing. These people who are coming here working six or seven days a week in the jobs that nobody else wants to do … cutting lawns, watching the children, cleaning houses. … They come here hoping that their children will be educated and have a better life,” p. 229 – 230.
The Duncan’s point out communities such as Bedford and Mt. Kisco require a “lot of labor” in order to maintain the quality of life they are willing and able to pay for, as is their right. At the same time, they have a tendency to ambivalence, disdain, or both, for those less privileged who provide the labor necessary to maintain their privileged lifestyle.
As the Duncan’s put it on p. 75 of Wylie, “Can’t live with them, can’t landscape without them.”
On page five of the Introduction to “Landscapes of Privilege,” the Duncan’s make the point that, “It is a longing for simpler, quieter, more wholesome places that have an air of historical authenticity and an aura of uniqueness about them, without forcing oneself to be divorced from the many benefits of globalization enjoyed by the more privileged members of society,” (emphasis added).
It is precisely due to the “many benefits of globalization” that many of the opportunities in the immigrants’ home country have been taken away as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which went into effect in 1994.
The agreement was largely one-sided in that it took away protection and subsidies for Mexican farmers, particularly for commodities such as corn, but left the same protections and subsidies in place for U.S. farmers. Overnight, Mexican family farms went out of business because they could not compete with the inexpensive corn flooding the country from the U.S.
As a result immigrants who no longer have a means of support in their home country, come to communities such as Bedford and Mt. Kisco, seeking a better life for themselves and their families and willing to work. The reason they are attracted to these communities is almost always because they know someone who lives there. This suggests an established community of immigrants already in place.
Arturo, featured in this video, is one of these, having come to the U.S. in 1997 from an agricultural area of Mexico that was hard hit by NAFTA. After crossing the border hidden in the back of a truck he made his way to Oregon where he knew other immigrants already living in Salem.