El Norte Critical Analysis

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Eva Cooper
July 16, 2012.
El Norte
Critical Analysis

El Norte is an American independent film about a Guatemalan family. The film, directed by Gregory Nava, was first released at the Telluride Film Festival in 1983. El Norte was the first American independent film to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay (IMDb.com, Inc., 1990-2012). The film El Norte is about a brother named Enrique and a sister named Rosa. Enrique and Rosa are on a quest to get out of the ethnic and political repressed Guatemala and attempt to escape to the North where they can live the “American dream.” Will Enrique and Rosa live the “American dream” once they escape to the North? Can an illegal immigrant achieve the “American dream?” The answers to these questions depend on the viewer. El Norte is a movie depicting the struggle faced by many people from Central and South America who are trying to get inside the United States. Viewers often generalize the films point of view and see it as representing the whole ethnic consciousness of Latino cultural heritage. But Latin American culture within the United States is more diverse than the same. While Latinos share some of the same Latino cultural history as do Guatemalan refugees, these two groups identities should not be confused as the same. The Indian culture that is depicted in El Norte emphasizes on obeying and respecting parents and elders. They dress in native costumes and family is what matters the most in the Indian culture. The Indians speak a local dialect that is different from Spanish. Peace and love is only found in the homes of Indians living in the Guatemalan village. The village is run by the rich landowners. The landowners treat the Indians like slaves; the Indians lives mean nothing to the landowners. El Norte is divided into three acts. The first, titled “Arturo Xuncax,” is set in an Indian village in Guatemala. Arturo Xuncax is an Indian coffee picker and is the father of Enrique and Rosa. Arturo can no longer live in such inhumane conditions. Arturo organizes a gathering with his co-workers to come together and fight the plantations rich landowners. One night, when Arturo is meeting with his fellow co-workers, they are massacred by military men. The military, who were summoned by the plantations landowners, not only murders the Indian coffee pickers at the meeting but beheads Arturo. Enrique hears the gunfire and runs out into the darkness of the village only to find his father’s head hanging from a tree. The military returns to execute all families suspected of rebellion. Enrique and Rosa’s mother is taken away and they are left as orphan fugitives. Enrique and Rosa will most likely be murdered if they stay in the Guatemalan village; it seems as though their only hope of survival is the North. Throughout the movie the director, Gregory Nava, depicts the importance of family loyalty in the Indian culture. The solidarity among the Indian culture not only includes family members but consist of the community as well. The film establishes a close relationship between Enrique and Rosa. This close relationship is often tested against corrupted relations among Hispanics. The second episode is called “Coyote,” which are men who profit from helping people cross the American border; often robbing, raping, or shooting customers as they lead them through the isolated mountain passes. Enrique and Rosa are trying to cross the border at Tijuana. They trust the first person who offers to take them across the border. The trust seems to come from the Indian culture in the Guatemalan village. They soon find themselves being robbed instead. The fight is interrupted by the United States border patrol, which sends the Guatemalans back to Tijuana. Once back in Tijuana they find a coyote who is honest and is an extended friend of a friend. Even though the coyote seems to be a good man he still is somewhat influenced in this dyer economic time. Once arriving in Los Angeles, the...
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