Rodríguez Santos: The Indocumentados Of Today
Rodríguez Santos: The Braceros of a Half-Century Ago and the Indocumentados of Today
February 22, 2006
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Oaxacan authentic journalist and professor at the 2003 Narco News School of Authentic Journalism Bertha Rodríguez Santos adds her voice to the Other Journalism with the Other Campaign with two reports in as many days.
First, Rodríguez continues telling the story of Mexico's Braceros, the workers who came to the U.S. under a guest worker program begun during World War II and were cheated out of a portion of their already-low wages by U.S. and Mexican banks. As Narco News reported earlier this week, these aging but fighting men and women have now added their ranks to the Zapatistas' Other Campaign. Rodríguez reports:
"Nearly all the Braceros knew humiliation since the moment they were pushed into the train cars that brought them to the sites where they would be hired. They all underwent physical evaluations that included a kind of 'disinfection' from possible illnesses. 'They suffered a very inhuman treatment,' says Felipe Monroy Sandoval, son of a Bracero and an advisor to the delegation from the state of Guerrero.
"Monroy claims that the bosses ignored many of the conditions outlined in the contracts. Although these documents established that Mexican workers would receive the same status as U.S. workers, there were no decent living conditions and there was much discrimination. 'Many work sites were like concentration camps where the people worked a minimum of 12 hours each day. When they had to, they even made the Braceros work at night.'
"The Zapatistas know this story and see themselves reflected in it. Marcos said that the indigenous understand the pain and sacrifice of the men and women who make up the Bracero movement. In their meetings throughout the eight states that the Other Campaign has already toured they have come across 'old men who tell us: "they treat us like broken furniture, as if we were in their way. We weren't born old; we worked hard and now they want to push us aside, they want to kill us."'"
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Rodríguez also files a report based on her recent experiences in upstate New York, USA, where she met many undocumented ("illegal") Mexican immigrants. The struggles of these workers, farmers, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters on the "Other" side of the Rio Grande are now a major part of the lives of many Mexican families and communities, and Marcos hopes to bring the Other Campaign to them as well when he visits the border in June. Rodríguez writes of some of the stories she heard when in Poughkeepsie, NY:
"It was 9 o'clock at night in the middle of the desert. Everyone was quiet, so as not to catch the attention of the migra, the agents who patrol the border 24 hours a day. Suddenly, the indocumentados realized that all their efforts to pass through the danger zone without being noticed had failed as they were caught by the patrols.
"An intense burning in the face was the sensation that César felt as he hit the sandy desert ground face first. Immediately after this he felt dry shooting pains in his back as an agent kicked him, screaming at him, insulting him. The group was taken to a detention center on the Mexican side, where they arrived early the next morning surprised by a cold rain.
"Among those detained were men, women and children. The fatigue, hunger, and odor that came from having gone entire weeks without bathing brought them feelings of desperation and impotence, leading more than one to cry in silence.
"Another time when Ulises Benítez crossed the desert with a group of people from Oaxaca, the indocumentados passed the bodies of two men. One of them was leaning against a tree. The position they found him in made it look like he had been praying; his eyes were gone and his body was starting to show signs of decomposition. The other man was found lying a few yards away."
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From somewhere in a country called América,
The Narco News Bulletin