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Latino Threat Narrative in The Film Under The Same Moon

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“No one chooses to live this way, Carlitos, unless they got a good reason”, stated migrant worker, Enrique from the award-winning film La Misma Luna. In her film La Misma Luna or Under the Same Moon, director Patricia Riggen successfully captures common hardships Chicano immigrant families face and their desire to obtain a better life in the United States. The movie focuses on a young boy named Carlos who enters America illegally in the hope of reuniting with his mother, Rosario. Throughout Carlitos’ journey, he witnesses and experiences the unequal and harsh treatment of immigrants and struggles to navigate his way. On the other hand, Rosario works endlessly to provide for her family and experiences discrimination as an illegal immigrant in America. The strong mother-son bond and the main character’s determination and persistence drives the plot of the film. More importantly, this film reveals racial controversy and questions the validity of the Latino Threat Narrative through the use of counter storytelling. Counter storytelling is a powerful tool which challenges “embedded preconceptions that marginalize others or conceal their humanity” and gives voice to victims of racial discrimination who often “suffer in silence or blame themselves for their predicament”. Whether these counterstories are in the form of a cinematic film or a book, their main motive is to spread awareness and promote change in the social construction of race. Through Carlitos and Rosario’s journey, it is ultimately evident that La Misma Luna challenges the Latino Threat Narrative by illustrating how both characters navigate through immigrant hardships using their cultural wealth, embody true American morals and ideals, and lack motives of reconquering the United States.

The Latino Threat Narrative is a post-racial facade posited by white supremacists that claim these “new” immigrants are a threat to the overall safety of the United States. According to Leo R. Chavez’s book The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation, new immigrants are different from the previously integrated immigrants in America. Rather, Latinos are incapable of integrating and are part of an invading force to reconquer stolen lands and destroy the American lifestyle. Furthermore, it states that immigrants reproduce their own cultural world and prefer to remain linguistically and socially isolated. It also addresses that Latina females have infiltrated America with their high fertility rates, producing anchor babies for citizenship. Altogether, the Latino Threat Narrative has become a source for white supremacists to secure power and broadcast the Latino’s “virtual life” as a threat to American society. Media spectacles illustrate the “virtual life” of immigrants as illegal aliens which “become abstractions and representations that stand in the place of real lives”(Chavez, 47). Moreover, Latinos “are seldom represented as agents of positive change, because their unwillingness to integrate denies them the opportunity to influence the larger society in any way appreciable way, except in the negative-as a threat to existing institutions” (Chavez, 48). This negative representation of Chicano immigrants has been amplified with the election of President Donald Trump. He promotes white supremacist ideals as he countlessly paints Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals while urging to “make America great again”. Moreover, Trump’s “articulation of a “traditional America” becomes further bolstered by a white racial identity, when the shifting U.S. demographics towards a more racially diverse…nation is attributed to the moving away from that tradition…[and immigrants] are articulated as misaligning with traditional “American” values (hard work, meritocracy)” (Perez, 234). With stricter government immigration policies, Latino immigrant families are struggling to gain a foothold in American society as they lack the necessary resources and social support. In order to transform these policies, the spotlight must shift from the white majority to the immigrant minority. This is done through counter storytelling as immigrants communicate their personal stories and reveal undeniable truths. In effect, this “reduces alienation for members of excluded groups”(Delgado and Stefancic, 51) and “can name a type of discrimination (microaggressions, unconscious discrimination, or structural racism) [and]…once named, it can be combated”. Moreover, “continuing to theorize to provide tools to… communities to name the forms of oppression…[encountered] daily is perhaps one of the most important strategies [used] to bridge…scholarship with…communities” (Perez, 243). The power and persuasion of legal storytelling and narrative analysis allow for a deeper understanding of America’s viewpoint on race and has significant implications in abolishing the socially constructed hierarchy of race.

La Misma Luna is an impactful counterstory where characters, Carlitos and Rosario, communicate their struggles as illegal immigrants in America. Carlitos’ character, even when tested by immense hardship, challenges the Latino Threat Narrative. His experiences display the plight of an average immigrant and child as he was almost trafficked, washed dishes in order to earn money, and even worked as a migrant farmer in the tomato fields. He entered this country lacking American resources but used his cultural community wealth in order to find his way to his mother. While the Latino Threat Narrative assumes “that People of Color ‘lack’ the social and cultural capital required for social mobility”, Carlitos defies those beliefs as he uses his knowledge and cultural capital to successfully reunite with his mom. According to the professor and researcher Tara J. Yosso, community cultural wealth is composed of aspirational, familial, social, linguistic, resistant, and navigational capital. Carlitos exhibits linguistic capital through his bilingualism (English and Spanish) which allowed him to communicate with others and navigate, displays resistant and aspirational capital by his determination which allowed him to find his mom, and reflects familial and social capital which allowed him to find a friend, Enrique. This is significant because Carlitos shifts the “deficit view of Communities of Color as places full of cultural poverty disadvantages, and instead focuses on and learns from the array of cultural knowledge, skills, abilities, and contacts possessed by socially marginalized groups that often go unrecognized and unacknowledged” (Yosso, 69). Furthermore, Carlitos challenges this deficit view as he embodies the true ideals of good American virtue. For example, Carlitos could have stolen money, lied, or partook in criminal activities to meet his mom, but rather worked diligently and truthfully. Also, Carlitos demonstrated his respectful and moral values when he paid for his father’s meal and worked in the fields and restaurant. His journey “empower[s] People of Color to utilize assets already abundant in their communities” and “question[s] White middle-class communities as the standard by which all others are judged” (Yosso, 82). Lastly, Carlitos challenges the Latino Threat Narrative because he lacks any ulterior motive to reconquer the lands of America. His main goal was to reunite with his mother and assimilate into American society with his family. Altogether, Carlitos’ story weakens the credibility of the Latino Threat Narrative and strengthens the voice of the minority immigrant population.

While Carlitos challenges the Latino Threat Narrative through his cultural wealth, Rosario shows the viewer the actual lifestyle of a common female immigrant in the United States. Rosario ultimately disproves the threat narrative as she is unlike the negative perceived image of high fertile Latina women producing anchor babies. In the film, Rosario had the chance to marry Paco and attain citizenship, however, she refused as she believed marriage should be a union of love. Never once did she suggest having a child, nor did she want to acquire citizenship based on marriage. In addition, she undermines this negative narrative as she has no inclination to rebel or conquer America and is instead focused on her family. She immigrated and sacrificed raising her child, in hopes to provide him with a better and financially stable future in America. This character trait contrasts with the uncultured image of the Latino and highlights the immoral Foulcadiun bureaucracy. Being perceived as an “illegal” alien in the United States denies Rosario the basic right of seeing her child. Moreover, Rosario’s actions refute the Latino Threat Narrative as she kept her moral ground and showed respect even when her white female employer threatened her. Her white employer fired Rosario and suggested she call the police when she denied Rosario’s right to her paycheck. Knowing that Rosario is an illegal immigrant, her racist employer responded with microaggressions and discrimination. This demonstrates the interest convergence of white superiority and promotes the concept of racist nativism. According to Dr.Lindsay Perez Huber, racist nativism is the “the assigning of values to real or imagined differences in order to justify the superiority of the…[white native], over that of the non-native,…[immigrants of color]”, therefore securing native dominance. These racist native discourses, “construct Latina and Latino immigrants, and particularly the undocumented, as perpetual subordinate foreigners, while at the same time, constructing the legitimacy of whites as the dominant, ‘native group’” (Perez, 226). In the film, Rosario’s character embodies the American values of hard work, honesty, and determination, yet immigrants are stereotyped as an inferior threat. Nevertheless, this “pervasive “threat” narrative has always been utilized to justify the exclusion and inhumane treatment of immigrants and People of Color” (Perez, 240).

The groundbreaking film, La Misma Luna, disbands the Latino Threat Narrative by illustrating how both characters navigate through immigrant hardships with the help of their cultural wealth, display moral and ethical values, and lack signs of reconquering America. This film features the internal struggles of an immigrant family and finally voices the story of the silenced minority. It displays the significance of counter storytelling which shifts the “virtual reality” created by previous media spectacles to the true life of an immigrant. La Misma Luna is an impactful film which provokes debate over current governmental policies which target immigrants and make the process of integration almost impossible. In order to dissolve the Latino Threat narrative we need to collectively address society that is “represented as the Other and as the foreigner, real Americans/ “Mexicans” or real Americans/ “Hispanics” natives/enemies, us/them, and legitimate/illegal” and dispel these binaries. Feminist theorist, Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa, stresses to break these binary systems and implement nepantla which is “the overlapping space between different perceptions and belief systems”. Nepantla raises awareness “of the changeability of racial, gender, sexual, and other categories rendering the conventional labelings obsolete”. Only once the binary system is removed, minorities communicate their counterstories, and society is willing to accept change will there be a national movement to alter the social construction of race and end the Latino Threat Narrative.

Works Cited

  • Anzaldúa, G. (2002). Now let us shift . . . the path of conocimiento . . . inner works, public acts. In G. Anzaldúa & A. Keating (Eds.), This bridge we call home: Radical visions for transformation (pp. 540–578). New York: Routledge.
  • Calderón, Dolores, et al. “A Chicana Feminist Epistemology Revisited: Cultivating Ideas a Generation Later.” Harvard Educational Review, vol. 82, no. 4, 2012, pp. 513–539., doi:10.17763/haer.82.4.l518621577461p68.
  • Chavez, Leo. The Latino Threat Constructing Immigrants, Citizens and the Nation. Stanford University Press, 2013.
  • Delgado, Richard, and Jean Stefancic. Critical Race Theory: an Introduction. New York University Press, 2017.
  • Huber, Lindsay Perez. 2016. “‘Make America Great Again!’: Donald Trump, Racist Nativism and the Virulent Adherence to White Supremacy Amid U.S. Demographic Change.”Charleston Law Review 10 (Fall): 215–50.
  • Riggen, Patricia, et al. Under the Same Moon. Weinstein Company, 2007.
  • Tara J. Yosso. “Whose Culture Has Capital? A Critical Race Theory Discussion of Community Cultural Wealth.” Race Ethnicity and Education, vol. 8, no. 1, 23 Aug. 2006, pp. 69–91., doi:10.1080/1361332052000341006.  

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