Mexican-American is a term that hides lives, wishes and overcoming. The faces behind the word emerge in Mexamérica: Una Cultura Naciendo. In this fascinating book, Fey Berman goes through the other immigration that hides behind statistics and political messages. Presents people who contribute their talent to the American society in science, art or politics whose story begins when crossing a border. Walk with Showmoon the trails of these exceptional immigrants through the words of the writer Fey Berman.
Other Realities of the Mexican-American Migration
Radiant sun and a dream that does not fade. The border makes many stories that seek to write a better future. They emerge from the pages of a book against the current. In it, you can find another immigrant reality. We chatted with the author hours before her presentation at the Texas Book Festival, in Austin.
Fey Berman didn´t know that limbo between two worlds that is to cross a border illegally but understands the rigors and the intrinsic difficulties of every immigrant. Fey began studying economics in Mexico, but a passion lead her away from the numbers and her country. I wanted to study Dance and that’s why I came to NYC. I studied a master’s degree in choreography and studied art.
By life’s causalities, she began her career as a journalist encountering the issue that has marked her life. Through her friendship with the great cellist Guillermo Prieto, she had the opportunity to start writing essays capable of capturing exceptional migrant experiences. There is talk of undocumented workers and the border as a place where they cross arms and drugs, I wanted to show another reality.
Fey is based on success stories that show the most positive side of Mexican immigration. One of the most paradigmatic is that of Quiñones Hinojosa, whose life Disney plans to take to the cinema. He passed without papers and on foot the border to pick cotton in California.
Like many of his compatriots in the United States came with a rather poor educational background that was sophisticated in his host country accessing the so-called American Dream. Fey points out: That was before, Immigrants now do not dream of wealth but of survival.
Quiñones stood out for his intelligence and perseverance achieving a university scholarship. It was the first step of a meteoric career that has taken him from the cotton fields to the direction of the John Hopkins Clinic, the Mayo Clinic and to be editor of the most important neurology journal in the world.
Fey delves into the humanity of characters of whom there is very little talk. Miguel Covarrubias, El Chamaco, was an essential artist for the development of modern art in the United States.
He has gone to immortality through his canvases and colorful covers of Vanity Fair. The book reveals other no less incredible aspects of Covarrubias life. He was one of the first people outside the environment to talk about music in Harlem. His cartoons inspired the lover of Josephine Baker, whose illustrations laid the foundations of Baker’s legend in Paris.
The story that unites the magical realism so present in Latin American culture with the harsh reality is that of Martín Ramírez. It’s a kind of Mexican Van Gogh. He came to work in the field and ended up on the street. He was imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital as they used to do with homeless people. They didn’t know how to diagnose him. He spent 50 years in the hospital and painted on the sanitary sheets supplied to him.
His work is a corollary of fascinating themes and collages: American industralization, nopales or American and Mexican syncretism in the 1920s. After his death, he excelled in sick art. His doctor sent his work to MOMA and it was auctioned at Sotherby’s. Martín never imagined the route that his drawings would take after his death.
Another artist who stands out in the book is Dulce Pinzón. When the Twin Towers fell, no one spoke of the undocumented workers who worked there, so it occurred to her to join the survivors. She disguised them as superheroes to give them visibility through her work.
A slab with which they all carry is the stereotype. Fey lives them in the first person in two opposite ways. I represent Mexico in a Jewish organization in New York. Sometimes we laugh at the stereotypes that associate me: the Jew of the hard-worker and skill with money and the prejudice of the Mexican as lazy and illiterate.
Behind these prejudices, Fey knows that other interests are hidden. Stereotypes hide beside the failure of immigration reform. It’s a way to justify having second-class workers.
The realities of the book cross Mexican-American lives throughout the United States, from NYC to Los Angeles, through the border or Chicago. Many of these places have a contradiction with current migration policies, according to Fey. The notion that these territories were Mexican has been lost, here in Texas not so much, but in NYC totally.
The Future to the Other Side of the Border
On the other side of the border there is a convulsive period, although with hopes for the future. In Mexico there is going to be a change. For the first time there has been an important vote from abroad, although ten times the participation was expected.
It isn’t surprising that the predictions of vote don’t correspond to reality. Fey believes it is a common problem for all Latins in the US. In many occasions the weight of the Latin vote is blurred by the little political culture that many immigrants drag from their countries of origin. Places in Central America and South America, where legal insecurity and corruption dance on the line between country and failed state.
In her native Mexico, there is a renewing current that looks at the Mexican-American diaspora as a hidden treasure. The intention is to create political leaders who first influence politics here and then influence Mexico. There is no current policy about it but it is only a matter of time. The second source of income in Mexico is remittances from the diaspora.
This economic power begins to translate into political power. They have noticed their immense power when they have seen that the governors cross the border to campaign. In the background, they are like children abandoned by both sides. That is going to change.
Fey Berman and Hispanic Literature
While Fey’s characters illustrate the past and the present, her face lights up when she speaks in the future tense. While it arrives, she will continue to raise awareness with her literature about the benefits of immigration and the bilateral opportunities it generates.
She does it in a complicated market such as Spanish in the United States. People tell me that Hispanic literature is only profitable in biographies, children’s books and self-help. Publishers look for magical realism or folklore in the Latin writers, as if they could not be modern.
In her agenda: a host of presentations and conferences. The first one at the Wilson Center in Washington. Later, she will focus on finishing an exciting essay on Los Angeles, the place of origin of charismatic community leaders and Mexican-American politicians.
Back home in New York, she will be close to one and a half million compatriots. When I arrived there were only 4000, she remember. This growing presence of Mexican-American culture in the United States leaves one last reflection. We need to unite more. We ourselves make divisions when demanding rights.
With her final words, we turn our minds to the border and imagine those people who will one day be part of Fey Berman’s stories of excellence.
Mexamérica: Una Cultura Naciendo – Download it here.