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The Knotted Line

Evan Bissell, Author

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1942/1954: Turnstyle

1942/1954: Mexico and the United States formalize temporary contract labor exchanges through the Bracero Program, initiated during WWII. After the war, Truman initiates “Operation Wetback,” leading to targeted criminalization, deportation and frequent abuse of "suspected" undocumented immigrants.   

Actions for Self-Determination:
  • 1849: Henry David Thoreau writes Civil Disobedience and stops paying taxes in protest of slavery and Mexican-American War.
  • 1932: Frida Kahlo paints "Self-Portrait Along the Border Line Between Mexico and the United States," exploring the exploitative nature of the U.S. industrial capitalist system against Mexico's land-based economy. 
  • 1954: The movie Salt of the Earth (Note: To view this video, click 'Remove this header.') is released and blacklisted due to McCarthyism. (Its directors, writers and producers refused to answer questions from the House Committee on Un-American Activities). It is based on the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers strike, primarily Mexican-Americans who demanded equal pay to their white coworkers. The wives of the workers play a crucial role in the strike.
  • 1987: Gloria Anzaldúa publishes Borderlands/La Frontera.
  • 2001: National Day Laborers Organizing Network forms, bringing together community organizations across the country that seek to expand the human rights of their members. 
  • 2010: Volunteers with No More Deaths, an organization that seeks to prevent deaths of people crossing the border, are fined for littering after leaving out one-gallon jugs of water.
  • 2011: 67 Sueños a migrant youth organization paints the 100-foot-by-30-foot mural “67 Sueños” in downtown San Francisco. The mural and the organization raise concerns about the way the Dream Act and related immigration policy privilege certain people, yet exclude the majority (67%) of immigrants.
Discussion Questions:
  • Compare and contrast the painting by Frida Kahlo and the mural by 67 Sueños. What concerns and representations are similar, what have changed?  One of these is painted by a Mexican citizen, the other by immigrant youth living in the United States. How does this inform what is in the painting?
  • Should the organization No More Deaths continue their work even if they are breaking the law? Why or why not?

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