441444e… S Austin’s Largest Selection of International Folk Art, Silver Jewelry and Textiles E IClo CD 1″ RA ID I Ct COM PA 14 16 FOLK ART & OTHER TREASURES FROM AROUND THE WORLD esik ,. 209 CONGRESS AVEAUSTIN 512/479-8377, WREN DAILY 10-5 www.tesoros.com Zroji always talked about when she came out, she would relieve me of this responsibility and work toward being a family again. But she didn’t want them to suffer. She doesn’t have ties to Nuevo Laredo. She’s from a small rural community in Michoacan. We couldn’t enroll them in school in Mexico. The kids can speak Spanish, but they were born and raised in the United States. It’s two completely different worlds. She felt bad about them not going to school. My brothers and my sister are so smart, hard working, just trying to do well. My sister last year got the top GPA in her class; she’s in the Honor Society, and she’s thinking about collegeit’s something that I would hate to see go awaythat motivation to continue her education. I get involved in activism and stuff, but I don’t know if it really helps. I know it’s important. Some people say that protests can be counterproductive, but when your voice is ignored and so much suffering goes on, there’s just nothing else that you can do sometimesin an informal way let people know your side of the story. We need to keep this movement alive. Whenever people think about the immigration debate in this country, they should really open up their hearts and realize there is real human suffering involved when a lot of the so-called antiimmigration bills are passed. JESSE SALMERON is a 29-year-old filmmaker who grew up in Houston and recently moved to Austin. His film Undocumented offers an inside perspective on immigrant rights in Houston in 2006. I came to Houston when I was three years oldundocumentedfrom El Salvador. We later qualified for amnesty because we had come here during the civil war. My mother would always have two jobs, fast food and some kind of maid service where she would go clean houses during the weekend. My mother had this idea that I would become a doctor or a lawyer. The arts were pretty much not in the picture until college; I majored in creative writing at the University of Houston. When you’re in the English department at U of H, you don’t have much contact with activist groups. But my writing was about issues of identity, being first generation. The stories were somewhat political: stories about the conflict of traditional values from the old country versus the new country, language and identity. Who you areespecially if you are undocumented. What does it really mean to be American? Am I American because I have a piece paper that says I’m American, or am I an American because I embody the struggle, the spirit for a better life? After graduation I worked for a design firm as a copywriter, and a small production company that made local commercials. I was working at that company and saw what was happening that first day when students walked out. I was so impressedshockedthat it was happening in Houston, which has practically no history of social activism. I knew it was going to be historysomething that had to be recorded, so I took a leave from work. I had a little money saved up that quickly ran out. There were people who were emerging as leaders, who had it thrust upon them, learning as they went. Some organizations were more conservative than others. There was every possible clash you could think ofyoung and old, differences in ideology. Conflict over the flag. If you should even bring a flag, if they should tell students to stay in school. Even race and nationalism. It was a coalition being built on the fly; no structure, no leaders, no bylaws. Just people coming together at a certain place and time to organize these marches. They didn’t have to rally to get people out: People were coming out in masses on their own, all united behind the struggle against the Sensenbrenner bill. Jezer Uretia, the pastor you see in the documentary, he’s Dominican. He was one of the first people I befriended. I really came to admire him for his strength and leadership. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t actually be part of the movement because I was behind the camera. I realized this was my contribution, documenting our history. I also realized that I had a strength I didn’t know about before when I was sitting on my couch and just fuming at Lou Dobbs. I realized that I do have a voice, there are stories that have to be told. After April 10and after the raids that followedthere was fear to the point where people were afraid to leave their homes. Somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 people did come out in Houston on May 1, but there was such fear that while you were out there, ICE would just come out and grab you. And that fear has been sustained. People are thinking that the marches aren’t adding up to anything, these raids are still happening, they’re being attacked, and they really can’t do anything about it. Immigration is a complex issue. A lot more voices need to be heard. I think there will be a lot of people who emerge from the movement that happened last year. It’s going to be interesting to see the turnout on April 10 and May 1. I’ll be thereI’m not sure whether I’ll be filming. Sometimes you just want to raise your voice and not have a camera. Sometimes you just want to be part of that collective that’s raising their voice and being heard. Barbara Belejack is a former Observer editor. Jesse Salmeron’s film Undocumented will be shown at the Center for Mexican American Studies at UT-Austin on April 30 at 7 p.m. APRIL 20, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31
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