Sunday, October 16, 2011

Reconsider Columbus Day

Democracy in Latin America: Political Change in Comparative Perspective

Democracy in Latin America, 2e examines processes of democratization in Latin America from 1900 to the present. Thoroughly revised and expanded, this new edition provides a widespread view of political transformation throughout the entire region. In clear and jargon-free prose, the book: · Traces the origins and evolution of democracy in Latin America · Examines the adoption and reform of electoral institutions · Assesses the policy performance of contemporary democracies · Explores the political representation of women, workers, and indigenous peoples · Evaluates trends in public opinion Reveals the prevalence of "illiberal democracy" Adroitly blending qualitative and quantitative approaches, Democracy in Latin America 2e offers an innovative view of the "dialectic" of democratic change in Latin America. This interpretation draws upon new material concerning the rise of the "new Left," the relationship between social status and satisfaction with democracy, the effectiveness of antipoverty policies, changing roles of the judiciary, and the impact of the international environment. Readability is enhanced by the inclusion of numerous photographic illustrations and brief "boxes" with portraits of personalities, explanations about methodology, and comments on conceptual approaches.

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new books on Caribbean, US Latin@ and Latin American Studies

Click on the tittles for details:

 The Caribbean: The Genesis of a Fragmented Nationalism
Third Edition
Franklin W Knight

Latin America: An introduction
Gary Prevost and Harry E. Vanden

Beyond La Frontera: The History of Mexico-U.S. Migration
Mark Overmyer-Velazquez

The Killiing Zone: The United States Wages Cold War in Latin America
Stephen G. Rabe

Film: Letters from the Other Side

Watch the trailer here:
"How many more deaths does it take for the U.S. government to do something? Let it be on their conscience that since our tragedy many more have died and many more will die!"
So says Laura in a video letter to the U.S. government, speaking about her husband who died trying to cross the U.S./Mexico border to search for work. LETTERS FROM THE OTHER SIDE interweaves video letters carried across the U.S./Mexico border with the intimate stories of women left behind in post-NAFTA Mexico. By focusing on a side of the immigration story rarely told by the media or touched upon in our national debate, LETTERS paints a complex portrait of families torn apart by economics, communities dying at the hands of globalization, and governments incapable or unwilling to do anything about it.

The People
The daily lives and struggles of four Mexican women interweave with their video letters, carried across the border (by the film's director) to both loved ones and strangers in the U.S.:

Eugenia González:
"If you invite your father to watch this video, please tell him that I am very happy to have accomplished everything I have accomplished without having to rely on him at all."

Eugenia's husband left some 8 years ago and has never been back. Initially he sent money and called often. But after a little while, he stopped sending money, and the calls became sporadic. In the years following, her sons have left one by one, the first one in search of his Dad. Eugenia has tried to make a new life for herself and her two daughters, learning how to cultivate cactus and make cactus products like soap and jam that she sells in local markets. As her teenage daughter Maricruz talks more and more about going to the U.S., Eugenia worries how she will keep what little family she has left together.

When a video letter opens the lines of communication between Eugenia and her husband again, an engrossing and painful family dynamic unfolds.   Eugenia has conflicting feelings when her husband makes promises of returning home soon. She worries who will "wear the pants" if he does come, and how her 7-year-old daughter Jessica will react to the father she has never known. Yet she also knows how much it would mean to her daughter Maricruz, who hopes against hope that her father will return in time for the approaching date of her quinceañera (15th birthday) celebration.

Maria Yañez:
"All this here is seasonal, we don't have irrigation. When it rains, it grows, and when it doesn't, it doesn't. The crops are only for eating, and anyway, the price in the market is really low now."

Maria Yañez is a subsistence farmer in rural central Mexico, who, along with her husband Domingo, waits for the rain each year to begin planting corn and beans. As they desperately try to eke out a living from their small parcel of land, another son leaves for the U.S. each year, leaving them to wonder, who will they pass their land down to?

As we follow a planting season in Maria and Domingo's lives, we see them worry about the forces of nature and economics, neither of which they can control. As they grow older, it gets more difficult for them to farm, and they hope their youngest son, who has not yet left for the U.S., will take over the land. But Julio, who has one more year of high school left, has other ideas.   "You can't make any money from farming at all. The government doesn't support the small farmer anymore, and prices in the market are really low."

Maria tries to earn a little extra money by embroidering pillows, which sell at a women's cooperative store in a nearby tourist hotspot. Her video letter begins by following one of Maria's pillows over the border and into the U.S. with the American retiree who bought it.

Carmela Rico and Laura Masacruz:
"He said he would only go for a year. The morning he left he hugged and kissed me and the children, and then he left. I never heard from him again. We found out through the television."

The story of Carmela and Laura opens with television news footage of the story of their husbands who lost their lives in the worst immigrant smuggling case in U.S. history - in May 2003, they suffocated in the back of a semi-truck in Victoria, Texas, along with 17 other undocumented immigrants trying to cross the border to look for jobs in the U.S. In an attempt to start their lives over, Carmela and Laura struggle to begin a bakery, but are shell-shocked from their tragedy and frustrated with government band-aid approaches on both sides of the border. Immediately after the tragedy, the Mexican government helped them by donating a large oven and other heavy equipment. But this quick fix hasn't helped get the bakery off the ground -- the equipment stands idle as the woman have no money to invest in additional necessary supplies, and no training.

In a video letter with a U.S. Homeland Security spokesperson, they vent their grief and frustration over inhumane policies that do little to address root problems. Says Laura in the video letter:

"How many more deaths does it take for the U.S. government to say this is enough and do something? They need workers over there, if they didn't people wouldn't be trying to cross the border, and in trying many die. Enough already! Enough death and suffering!"

The Problem
Between 1990 and 2004, the number of undocumented Mexicans living in the United States rose from 2 million to 6 million. Free trade agreements and liberalization policies have made it increasingly difficult for individual farmers in Mexico to make a living. By 2002, the number of farming jobs had fallen by 1.3 million since NAFTA went into effect in 1994. In that same time period, U.S. corn exports to Mexico have increased by 240%, and Mexican corn prices have fallen by more than 70%.

Meanwhile, U.S. immigration policies since NAFTA and more recently 9/11 have focused on enforcement, driving undocumented immigrants to cross at more and more remote places in more dangerous ways, and pay thousands of dollars to unscrupulous smugglers. A tripling of the number of Border Patrol agents on the U.S./ Mexico border since 1994 has not brought down the number of those trying to cross, but has increased the numbers who die trying and the fee paid to smugglers. The recorded number of immigrants who died crossing the U.S./Mexico border has grown from 61 in 1995 to 464 in 2005, while some estimates show that the average smuggler fee has increased from $300 in 1994 to around $2000 in 2004.

While the U.S. enforces immigration policies that do little to stop migration and only make it more dangerous, the Mexican government does little to stem the flow of migration from their communities. U.S. dollars that flow into Mexico each year from immigrants working in the U.S. may be one reason why. In 2004, Mexicans in the U.S. sent back $17 billion, almost twice the amount sent in 2000. This is more than Mexico makes from tourism, and the country's second largest source of income after oil.

Recently, the Bush Administration proposed a guest worker program that will allow Mexican immigrants to work legally in the U.S. for 3 years but then have to return to their country. Still being debated in the U.S. House and the Senate, many say this will do little to stem the flow of illegal migration, since most immigrants won't want to subject themselves to a time limit of three years. And it does little to address the problem of families forced to live apart. Meanwhile, the enforcement provisions that go along with the proposal, including the proposed construction of an additional 700 miles of fencing along the border, will only make it more dangerous and risky for immigrants to cross.

Documental Sin País

Sin País (Without Country) attempts to get beyond the partisan politics and mainstream media’s ‘talking point’ approach to immigration issues by exploring one family’s complex and emotional journey involving deportation.
In 1992, Sam and Elida Mejia left Guatemala during a violent civil war and brought their one-year old son, Gilbert, to California.  The Mejia’s settled in the Bay Area, and for the past 17 years they have worked multiple jobs to support their family, paid their taxes, and saved enough to buy a home. They had two more children, Helen and Dulce, who are both U.S. citizens.  Two years ago, immigration agents stormed the Mejia’s house looking for someone who didn’t live there.  Sam, Elida, and Gilbert were all undocumented and became deeply entangled in the U.S. immigration system.
Sin País begins two weeks before Sam and Elida’s scheduled deportation date. After a passionate fight to keep the family together, Sam and Elida are deported and take Dulce with them back to Guatemala.
With intimate access and striking imagery, Sin País explores the complexities of the Mejia’s new reality of a separated family–parents without their children, and children without their parents.
Director, Cinematographer, Editor__________Theo Rigby
Sound_______________________________Carolina Kondo, Theo Rigby
Translation/Transcription________________Daisy Rodriguez, Carolina Kondo
Technical Advisors______________________Mark Urbanek, Christian Gainsley
Original Music_________________________Dan Wool
Sound Mixer__________________________Dan Olmsted
Color Correction_______________________Brooke Hinton
Total Running Time__19:35
Format___________16:9 HD

Sin País (Without Country)__Trailer from Theo Rigby on Vimeo.