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La Migra and Elena
In “Elena,” the speaker is a Spanish-speaking mother who is struggling to better her life by learning English and crossing that language barrier. In “La Migra,” some kids are participating in a game, and within that game there is also a struggle to better their lives by attempting to cross the Mexican border. This game is shown through two perspectives, one from the border patrol’s point of view and the other from a Mexican woman’ point of view. With these two comparisons in mind, “Elena” and “La Migra” are similar in not only the personal struggle with language aspect, but with the desire for change aspect as well.
“Elena” is a mother struggling to learn the English language for the benefit of her children. With this struggle she feels left out of her children’s life and a bit intimidated. “They speak English. At night they sit around the kitchen table, laugh with one another. I stand by the stove and feel dumb, alone.” There’s even a struggle with Elena’s husband. There’s a feeling that he doesn’t approve of Elena learning English and would be a bit intimidated if she did. “My husband frowned, drank more beer. My oldest said, “Mama, he doesn’t want you to be smarter than he is.” In “La Migra,” there’s a similar struggle with the English and Spanish language between the border patrol and the Mexican woman. “I can take you whatever I want, but don’t ask questions because I don’t speak Spanish.” In this case, the struggle favors the border patrol as he takes advantage of the fact that the Mexican woman doesn’t speak English. The roles are reversed however, in the second part of the game, where the struggle is in favor of the Mexican woman. “You hear us singing and laughing with the wind, Agua dulce brota aqui, aqui, aqui, but since you can’t speak Spanish, you do not understand.”
With these struggles however, there is still the desire to succeed and make good of themselves in both “Elena” and “La Migra.” In “Elena” for example, although she receives criticisms for her children and her husband, Elena had the desire to succeed in learning English. Not so much mastering the language, but learning just enough for the benefit of helping her children when needed. “Sometimes I take my English book and lock myself in the bathroom, say the thick words softly, for if I stop trying, I will be deaf when my children need my help.” In “La Migra,” the Mexican woman’s desire to overcome the struggle with the border patrol is shown. She believes she’s out smarted the border patrol. “All you have is heavy: hat, glasses, badge, shoes, gun. I know this desert, where to rest, where to drink.”
It’s obvious to say that “Elena” and “La Migra” are similar culturally. They both deal with the struggle of Mexican families with the language barrier that comes with crossing the Mexican border into America. These struggles are countered with the strong desires to succeed and the accomplishment of learning the English language, may it be for their personal knowledge or for assisting their loved ones. After reading both “Elena” and “La Migra,” I concluded that Elena could have very well been the Mexican woman that was referred to in the game that was played by children within “La Migra”
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United States Border Patrol, Elena
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