Sunday, October 22, 2006

Latinos Doing It for Themselves

Interesting article in today's New York Times about Latino immigrants working for other Latinos here in the U.S.

The gist of the piece by Mireya Navarro is that while there are clearly benefits for both parties: shared language, culture, an expected shared immigration experience, there is some friction between recently arrived immigrants and their more established compatriots.

Says the article:

"In the employment market for both legal and illegal immigrants, many nannies and maids are finding their first jobs among the older generations of Latinos, who are now in a position to hire domestic help. But while the two groups of strivers may gravitate toward each other because of cultural and language similarities, their intersection can also be fraught with odd tensions and broken expectations, say researchers, employers and workers."

I can see how this can happen. My own experiences have found me all but apologizing to blue collar Latinos who take my garbage out at the office or clear my table at restaurants. Long story short, it bothers me immensely to give orders to or receive services from other Latino people.

This reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, Real Women Have Curves; the movie is about the daughter of first-generation immigrants who wants her family to be as motivated and ambitious as she is. In one scene, she dares her sister to stand up to her Latina boss at Saks Fifth Avenue who commissions the gowns made by the girl's mother and sister at a local factory. When the boss acts like a bitch, looking down on the two girls in her high heels and beautifully tailored suit, the movie's heroine disses the boss in Spanish, only to be sassed right back. It was painful to watch only because many a time I have found myself in a suit and tie having to weather comments like "fag," "blowhard," and "he thinks he's white" by other Latinos who think I have no idea what they're saying, or, worse, they know I know what they're saying and don't care.

I've had many discussions about this sort of class struggle with my black and latino friends and really, it all boils down to our communities not expecting for us to be more than invisible. It's OK to work and toil, but to assume a position of leadership and to actually go head to head with the establishment is still unheard of for old school latinos --- to see some of their own "leave the flock" and embrace American values, values that then breed the same kinds of class struggles that exist in the old countries, is painful.

But as we say in the 'hood: Don't hate, participate and congratulate.


gay person of color said...

I think what you wrote is wonderfully insightful.


Anonymous said...

I really like the film Real Women Have Curves. One thing this film brings out is how people who do experience oppression often want others to suffer the same. In this film it is most eveident with the mother who wants her daughter to work, toil and suffer as she has, at one point she says, "It's not fair, it's her turn." Something which bothered/hurt me a lot was walking down my block past a gruop of day laborers on the corner; one of them says presumido, show off to me, of course, after I had walked past him. I was wearing a suit and was going to a job interview. I was probably more broke than he was since i was still in college. Anyhow it really pissed me off that he would say that. What did he expect? I'm not going to walk with my head down, with a false humility. A few days later I went to a local park where a black girl I spoke to briefly thought I was white (I'm Mexican) and a white old man asked if i had a green card later on. Damn! Any how. I sort of undestand where your coming from, except for the last paragraph. You say it yourself, you leave "the flock," your just another boss, like one of the bosses they might have left behind in Latin America. There is rift between you, an enormous one, and it is painful.

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