by Jessica Taylor
The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program premiered its latest documentary Siempre Adelante: A Look at Faith and the Immigrant Struggle to a full house on Oct. 1. The film, created and compiled by UF students and faculty, follows the stories of four “illegal” immigrants on their journey from the Global South to Alachua County and into labor exploitation. Their anonymous stories are personal to Gainesville citizens because they’re local: new U.S. workers and their oppressors live here and pass by us every day.
Filmmakers Deborah Hendrix and Maria Munoz recast the immigrants not as victims but as survivors, defying marginalization as undocumented workers creatively and courageously. “Nelson” spoke about a battle with the man who brought him to Florida from Guatemala: “And then he started to blackmail me, saying he was going to turn me over to Immigration and give them my address. Okay, that’s fine, I said to him. Do it, so then if Immigration comes to my house and starts asking questions, I’ll tell them that you brought me here.”
The impetus for Siempre Adelante (“Always Moving Forward”) came from Pastor Jaime Zelaya, who approached SPOHP with “the idea to educate” others not only about op- pression and exploitation in surrounding farming communities, but to create “a film about who we are.” A central part of that identity for the narrators is faith, an often understudied and politically misunderstood component of the immigration experience. Informant “Sophia” from Mexico employed Christian faith as a metaphor for equality among American workers: “We are not trying to steal anything from anyone. We came here to work, to keep moving onward, and we are all children of God.”
Gainesville community members, religious leaders, and UF students joined in an honest and open question-and-answer with Pastor Zelaya and Maria Munoz after the film. Representatives from UF CHISPAS, Hispanic Heritage Month, and Comprehensive Immigration Reform Now! concluded the event with some last words about advocacy opportunities in Gainesville.
Want to see for yourself? SPOHP has DVDs of Siempre Adelante on loan for anyone who wants to have their own watching party. The entire documentary is also available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K74p9oD-kqQ. Join the discussion on the exploitation of immigrants right here in Alachua County.