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Thursday, November 8, 2012

"Sobrevive el migrante en las sombras." ("The migrant survives in the shadows.")

Posted by on Thu, Nov 8, 2012 at 4:55 PM

Tonight, I'm heading down to On the Boards to see Amarillo, about a man who tries to cross the border-desert from Mexico to the US and disappears into a visionary, perhaps fatal, experience. A big wall—the wall, the border fence—dominates the stage and becomes a projection surface and something to bounce off of, both literally and metaphorically.

The show is said to be part theater and part movement, dreamy and poetic, its hallucinatory elements all built with plastic bags, sand, water, and other materials that dominate the borderland. Here's a video trailer:

Amarillo from Mauricio Talamantes on Vimeo.

I had an email interview with the director, Jorge Arturo Vargas Cortez, about the show's themes of disappearance and the border fence/wall, that is a kind of way to "disappear" people. As I said to him, the fortified border is like a person closing her eyes and pretending that the things she can't see don't exist.

"I cannot adequately respond to your question," he wrote back, "because my view is from south to north. But it’s probably as you say. This topic is not on any of the political platforms at this time of elections. At least nothing like a clear stand against the reality of the wall. Maybe because it affects electoral strategies. But the decisions or indecisions about it will probably cost lives. What I believe: If the politicians close their eyes to this reality because it suits them, we must not close ours and must confront the complexity of the problem."

My rough translation of the interview is below the jump. (The first part of the interview, anyway—we also had a whole exchange about "political theater" in the US and Mexico that I haven't translated yet.)

Because my Spanish is far from fluent, and the translation will certainly have mistakes, I also posted his original responses in Spanish. If any Spanish-speaking Sloggers spot errors and want to flag them in the comments, I'll fix them up.

The imperfect English version:

Your show has to do with disappearance, and disappearance seems like a heavy theme along the border in northern Mexico (people disappearing in the desert, the murders in Ciudad Juárez, the army/narco violence, etc.). Does this theme of disappearance extend across central and southern Mexico as well?

In Mexico, there is a violence that covers the entire country. The turf wars of criminal gangs extend through almost all of the states of the country. The war that Calderón, the outgoing president, started six years ago has resulted in 70,000 dead, and the real figure is probably much higher. Ciudad Juárez is the major example of this devastation—a city that has been deserted by anyone who is able to leave, a major center that was all light and splendor is now vacant streets, darkness, businesses in ruins, and an exodus without end.

At the border of Ciudad Juárez, the citizens have lost the street, lost public space, and have taken refuge behind the walls of their houses—just like in Chihuahua, Torreón, Durango, Matamoros, and practically every city or place in the country that has criminal interests. Here begins the image you propose: They have not only disappeared physically but with the fear and the danger they vanish, they have abandoned most public spaces: Violence produces invisibility. The politics of fear. A fear that is exercised and administered. The fear imposed by criminal gangs but also by the state, which has brought the military into the street where state and local police are involved with criminal networks and, beyond the obvious and exposed violence, is the violence exerted by the system as a means of control.

A politics of fear that originates in Mexico and beyond its borders, and that benefits from the excessive profits generated by the drug business and by all of the crimes associated with the traffic and dealing. This is the other violence that states on either side of the border participate in: the arms dealers and all their beneficiaries, those that incorporate mountains of illegal money into the market, the politicians implicated in illegal businesses…

And, finally, a global system that keeps the south under asymmetrical conditions of inequality and imbalance, in low-expectation situations that force them to choose between joining a criminal business or migrating to escape the violence or look for an opportunity to better their lives.

People disappear or become invisible to survive. The immigrant survives in the shadows. [“Sobrevive el migrante en las sombras.”] The neighbor behind the walls of their houses.

Once Central American migrants cross the border, they are invisible, they don’t have documents, neither name nor identity, and thanks to this anonymity are defenseless victims of predators. There are hundreds, thousands, who daily pass through this route to northern defenselessness. Close to one million every year, between Central Americans and Mexicans, while immigration agents lurk, criminals lurk, the police lurk, the Minutemen lurk, the border patrol lurk. They die in the desert because The Wall [“el muro,” the border fence] has been technologized and surveillance increases, forcing them to cross in increasingly inhospitable places. But the migration continues.

It’s also interesting to think of a border wall as a way of “disappearing” people, trying to make them vanish by putting them behind a screen of stone and barbed wire. It’s like a person closing her eyes and pretending that the things she can’t see don’t exist.

I cannot adequately respond to your question because my view is from south to north. But it’s probably as you say. This topic is not on any of the political platforms at this time of elections. At least nothing like a clear stand against the reality of the wall. Maybe because it affects electoral strategies. But the decisions or indecisions about it will probably cost lives. What I believe: If the politicians close their eyes to this reality because it suits them, we must not close ours and must confront the complexity of the problem. The story of migration seems to have been more beneficial than disastrous. It invigorates the economies of the countries where they migrate, generates cultural and economic wealth, fills important gaps in the work forces and the cultural mixing revitalizes societies. The border, which should be a space of encounter, is a zone of exclusion. This wall—and everything that marks the word’s geopolitical equator—accentuates the north-south divide where goods and resources cross the wall but people do not. This reveals a reality that is, to say the least, sad, where the north establishes relationships of inequality in the treatment of migrants while it shamelessly benefits from the wealth extracted from the south.

I am not speaking of a particular country, but of a system that has constructed this geopolitical relationship and has made north-south differences evident.

The original in Spanish:

Your show has to do with disappearance, and disappearance seems like a heavy theme along the border in northern Mexico (people disappearing in the desert, the murders in Ciudad Juárez, the army/narco violence, etc.). Does this theme of disappearance extend across central and southern Mexico as well?

En México hay una violencia que abarca todo el país. La lucha territorial de las bandas criminales se extiende por casi todos los estados de la república. La guerra que Calderón, el presidente saliente, inicia hace seis años tiene como resultado 70,000 mil muertos y probablemente un cifra real mucho mayor. Ciudad Juárez es el mejor ejemplo de esta devastación. Una ciudad de la que han desertado los que han podido, un centro que fue todo luz y esplendor ahora son calles vacías, oscuridad, negocios en ruinas y un éxodo que no acaba. En la fronteriza Ciudad Juárez los ciudadanos han perdido la calle, el espacio público y se han refugiado tras las paredes de sus casas –igual que en Chihuahua, Torreón, Durango, Matamoros y prácticamente toda ciudad o lugar del país donde hay intereses criminales-. Aquí comienza la imagen que propones: no solo han desaparecido físicamente sino que el miedo y el peligro los desvanece, han abandonado mayormente los espacios públicos: la violencia produce invisibilidad. La política del miedo. Un miedo que se ejerce y se administra. El miedo impuesto por las bandas criminales pero también por el estado, que ha sacado el ejército a las calles y donde las policías estatales y municipales están involucradas en las redes criminales y, más allá de la violencia expuesta, está la violencia ejercida por el sistema que le conviene el caos y la violencia como medios de control. Una política del miedo que se origina en México y más allá de sus fronteras y que se beneficia de las desmesuradas ganancias que genera el negocio de la droga y de todos los delitos asociados al tráfico y trata de personas Esta es la otra violencia donde participan los estados a uno y otro lado de la frontera: los dueños del negocio de las armas y todos sus beneficiarios, los que incorporan las montañas de dinero ilegal a los mercados, los políticos implicados en los negocios ilegales… Finalmente un sistema global que mantiene al sur en condiciones asimétricas, de desigualdad y desequilibrio en entornos de poca expectativa que los obligan a elegir entre incorporarse al negocio criminal o a migrar huyendo de la violencia o en busca de una oportunidad para mejorar sus vidas.

La gente desaparece o se vuelve invisible para sobrevivir. Sobrevive el migrante en las sombras. El vecino detrás de los muros de sus casas.

Los migrantes centroamericanos una vez que cruzan la frontera son invisibles, no tienen documentos, nombre ni identidad son, gracias a este anonimato, víctimas indefensas de los depredadores. Son cientos, miles que diariamente transitan por esta ruta hasta el norte en la indefensión. Cerca de un millón cada año, entre centromericanos y mexicanos. Los agentes migratorios acechan, los criminales acechan, las policías acechan, los Minute-man acechan, las patrullas fronterizas acechan.

Mueren en el desierto porque el muro se ha tecnologizado y la vigilancia se incrementa y los obliga a cruzar por lugares más inhóspitos. Pero la migración continua.

It’s also interesting to think of a border wall as a way of “disappearing” people, trying to make them vanish by putting them behind a screen of stone and barbed wire. It’s like a person closing her eyes and pretending that the things she can’t see don’t exist.

No podría responder adecuadamente a tu pregunta porque mi mirada es de Sur a Norte. Pero es probable que sea como lo formulas. Es un tema que no figura en ninguna de las plataformas políticas en este tiempo de elecciones. Por lo menos no como una postura clara frente a la realidad del muro. Quizá porque afecta las estrategias electorales. Pero las decisiones o las indecisiones al respecto es probable que cuesten vidas. Lo que creo es que si los políticos cierran los ojos a esta realidad porque así les conviene, nosotros no debemos cerrarlas y enfrentar la complejidad del problema. La historia de las migraciones parece ser que han sido más benéficas que desastrosas. Dinamizan las economías de los países a donde migran, generan riqueza cultural y económica, ocupan vacíos importantes de las fuerzas laborales y los mestizajes culturales revitalizan las sociedades. La frontera, que debería ser espacio de encuentro es lugar de exclusión. Este muro -y todos los que marcan el ecuador geopolítico del mundo-, acentúa la división Norte-Sur donde las mercancías y los beneficios cruzan el muro pero las personas, no. Esto revela una realidad para decir lo menos, triste, donde el Norte establece unas relaciones de desigualdad en el trato con los migrantes mientras se beneficia sin recato de la riqueza que extrae del Sur. No hablo de un país en particular sino de un sistema que ha construido esta relación geopolítica y que hace evidente las diferencias Norte-Sur.

 

Comments (3) RSS

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TVDinner 1
Gracias por compartir el video con nosotros, Brendan. Es muy conmovedor. Cuando estaba en latinoamérica escuché miles de veces la frase 'voy p'allá' y pensé 'no lo hagas. Allí serás invisible'.

No leí tu traducción cuidadosamente, pero me parece bien.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on November 8, 2012 at 8:38 PM · Report this
TVDinner 2
Me parece *buena.* ¡Qué vergüenza!
Posted by TVDinner http:// on November 8, 2012 at 8:42 PM · Report this
3
gracias por compartir tambien! estoy en mexico ahorita y vivo en un colonia hay tiene un railroad hay muy cerca de mi casa. todos los dias yo vi mucho gente de latinoamerica hay estan tratando cruce la frontera. deseo que mirar esta programa quizas un otra tiempo. salud.
Posted by jessicar r. on November 8, 2012 at 9:44 PM · Report this

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