An excerpt from Dangerous Border Crossers by Guillermo Gomez-Pena


The Self-deportation Project, 1995

Let’s exercise our political imagination for a moment. It is the immediate future in a typical US city, which is to say, a city full of immigrants, people of color and people who speak other languages… like Spanglish. You perceive yourself as an ‘angry white male,’ but no one knows about it. Not even your beautiful ‘Hispanic’ wife or your interracial kids.

You wake up one day and go to work. You need to stop for gas, but the gas station is closed (You don’t know that all the attendants went back to Old Mexico the day before.) You drive around looking for an open gas station until you run out of gas. You call a cab, but there are no cabs because the drivers, mainly Latino, quite the day before. Somehow you make it to the office to find your colleagues watching TV in total disbelief. A nervous President Clinton is pleading for all unemployed Anglos and African-Americans to show up immediately to the closest emergency labor recruitment center. The country is paralyzed. The disappeared Latino labor force must be replaced overnight.

At lunch time you discover that most restaurants are closed. Someone explains to you that the chefs and the waiters were all part of an epic self-deportation program. Since you are fairly apolitical, you still don’t quite get it. Many stores and hotels are closed (for obvious reasons) and the banks are going crazy. All across the country, millions of Mexicans, with their suitcases in hand are lining up at bank counters to withdraw their accounts on their back to their homelands.

You begin to worry about your family. You decide to go home, walking of course, ’cause your car, remember, is parked somewhere on the other side of town without gas. Your Hispanic wife is devastated. Most of her relatives chose to go back to the old country. She is also furious because Juan, the gardener, and Maria, the babysitter, are nowhere to be found. She explains she had to stay home to take care of the kids and missed all of her work appointments. She even had to take the kids to do the shopping, which Maria normally does. They stood in an eternal line at the supermarket, only to find that there was no fresh produce. According to the supermarket manager, there were no truckers to deliver it. Now your kids are crying because they miss Maria.

You go to bed in total perplexity, and you dream… in Spanish. Or better said, you have a nightmare in Spanish: you see yourself picking fruit under a criminal sun for ten hours a day, your hands covered with a monstrous skin disease produced by pesticides. You wake up sweating.

Next morning, you turn on the TV. A panicked President delivers the bad news: very few people responded to his desperate call for workers. The unemployed ‘citizens’ were clearly not inspired by the idea of working for minimum wage and no benefits. The nation’s tourist, construction, garment and food industries are all in disarray. San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Jose, Fresno, San Francisco, Phoenix, Tucson, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Denver, San Antonio, Houston, Chicago and a myriad other smaller cities have declared bankruptcy. And so have many national banks. And if this weren’t enough, the President concludes, within days, crops across the country will begin to rot because there’s simply no one to pick them. Luckily, Mexico has offered to send some emergency food supplies, and maybe even some Mexicans. In very broken Spanglish, or rather gringonol, a desperate President Clinton proceeds to beg the remaining Mexicans to stay [misspelled Spanish]: “Queridous amigous: querremos que ustedis recapaciten y nou abandounen sus trabayos mas. Les subireimos el salary y les dareimos muchious benefits y su terjeita verdi instantanea. Por favour.” “

A timely imaginary | 2016 | Uncategorized | Comments (0)