Thursday, February 15, 2007

Gabriel Thompson's There's No Jose Here

I read and recommend Gabriel Thompson’s There No José Here, and I’ve put it on my sidebar. I especially liked it because it offers a wide ranging, warts and all view of Mexican immigration to New York. He is obviously sympathetic to Enrique, the focus of the book (they are close friends), but does not paper over the problems of young pregnancies, child rearing, machismo, etc. It even includes a trip to the small Mexican town where Enrique came from.

The issue that caught my attention the most was how brazenly poor immigrants (and, certainly, native-born poor as well) are exploited in New York City. Landlords routinely ignored court orders to fix buildings or even get rid of the lead-based paint that severely affected many children, including one of Enrique’s. As Enrique says, “Every Mexican has a problem with their landlord.”

In another example, the author walked right into a sweatshop where Enrique’s wife worked. They were paying less than minimum wage, in truly horrible conditions, but the owners had no fear. I suppose this was a combination of knowing illegal immigrants were not likely to complain, and that the city wouldn’t do anything about it anyway.

In a lighter moment, they are in South Carolina, where Enrique’s father lives, and he shows how much immigrants do want to fit in. The father says he wants to find a University of South Carolina Gamecocks decal for his truck. When asked if the Gamecocks are any good, he replies:

"Actually, I don’t know…I don’t watch the games. After all my years here, I still can’t figure out what the rules are or how they keep score. All you see are a bunch of people standing around on a field. Real fat people. Gordos. Doesn’t make much sense to me. But everyone here has that sticker on their car, and I like it.” (p. 152)


Elena 5:51 PM  

I just loved the book!!! I am an immigrant myself, but not Mexican, I am Romanian and very highly educated, unlike the poor Mexicans that Gabriel Thompson is depicting in his book. Despite the fact that I am very well educated, I can relate to the discrimination that the Mexicans in the book are subjected to. Too bad...
Elena, Michigan.

Greg Weeks 7:46 AM  

At least it does show the ways in which Enrique was able to empower himself, but the obstacles were clearly very large.

Anonymous,  10:43 AM  

The truth about Mexican immigration

Gabriel Thompson hits the heart of immigration problem. People tend to oppose to migration blindly without analyzing the factors that propel all these poor people to work outside of their homeland, being humiliated, underpaid, and overworked for a few dollars. Also all these "Minuteman" and other racists would not do the work that a Mexican does; yet they want to throw out the people who give this country their work so that those racists could live in the land of plenty. People that oppose this migration are also the descendants of other immigrants that came to this country for the same reasons as these new migrants. Mexican migrants and all migrants in general are the backbone of our industry and our economy, we should be thankful that there are people like these poor Mexicans and migrants from other countries that do so much work in exchange of very little. I'm grateful that amid this sea of racism and ignorance there are a few people like Gabriel Thompson that expose the truth as it is.

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