The Utopian/Dystopian American Dream: Immigration and Labor in Latina/o Science Fiction

Working on el traque

When Don Chipote becomes a worker on the railroad track (el traque), he quickly learns about his expendability and disposability. For example, the narrator offers a critique of the treatment of these vulnerable individuals by U.S. capitalists, “…knowing that Mexican braceros can be useful in all types of work…shipping out greenhorns to the traque or to the cotton fields, where the workers are usually treated like animals. Those slave drivers, who make their living from Mexican disgrace, appear to be our guardian angels when we come across them” (Venegas 53).[1] Therefore, the narrator offers a space and voice to these dispossessed and denied subjects, gesturing to a type of critical dystopia. First, he emphasizes that these Mexican immigrants were dispossessed from their land and forced to migrate to the U.S.; and second, that they were denied the equal opportunity that the utopian American Dream is supposed to symbolize. This critique challenges the U.S. capitalist premise that Mexican braceros are biologically suited to perform hard labor, even comparing their treatment to that of animals. According to Gutiérrez, employers even stereotyped and described Mexicans as, “docile, patient, usually orderly in camp, fairly intelligent under competent supervision, obedient and cheap” (46).

[1] Additionally, in Curtis Marez’s Farm Worker Futurism: Speculative Technologies of Resistance (2016) he explores the backbreaking labor by farm workers, through the symbolic representation of the short-handed hoe (especially in photographs). Marez states that, “The tool helped make the worker’s labor visible to the bosses, reproducing an unequal set of visual relationships whereby big growers were the subjects, or we might say “owners,” of the gaze, while farm workers were its objects. The inequality of these relations of looking were furthered by the way the short- handled hoe required workers to repeatedly reproduce a posture— bent over, with bowed head and often on bended knee—symbolically linked to gendered and raced qualities of abjection such as subservience, weakness, or primitiveness, and implicitly contrasted with the superior- class qualities of independence, power, and advanced civilization conventionally coded as white and male” (87). 

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