Rudy Robles, Mexican-American born in East L. A, goes to visit one of his relative who works in a factory. In an unexpected turn of events, the United States Immigration as well as the Naturalization Service raid the area, and sweep all of the workers. Unfortunately, Robles was caught up in the situation and he, himself was mistaken as an illegal alien. He made his appeal by claiming that he is a US citizen, born in East LA. The immigration officer would not believe his story; and to make matters worse he does not have any form of identification with him to prove his claim.
It just so happen that he shares the same name with a known illegal alien who has been deported and arrested several times. Because he has no ID at the time of his arrest, Robles was deported to Mexico together with the workers. Denied of re-entering United States, the Mexican-American got himself involved with con artists, fugitives and smugglers in order to sneak across the boarder, only to realize later on that he is not born to run from the immigration service (Marin).
Although written in a comedic format, “Born in East L. A. ” manifest real life concerns, specifically about citizenship issues. Marin used a mistaken identity in order to give depth to the film and to present the idea that the immigration service do make mistakes and for some instances they deport US citizens, which is apparent from the situation of the protagonist in the film. However, one such lesson pointed out by the story is the importance of carrying proper identification so as to properly represent oneself when caught in a situation similar like that of Robles.
As he has no proper form of identification to present, his name, which he shares with a known illegal alien, determined his deportation. From here, it has been well thought to the audience that proper identification forms, indeed is what really set one apart from another. While many audience would find Rudy’s desperate attempts to be funny, as it is coated in a well comedic-script, one writer pointed out that it opened up the Chicano political consciousness, most especially in the issue of citizenship, borders and identity.
To quote: “Born in East L. A. epitomizes the way geographical frontiers have been internalized, creating a sense of fragmented identity” (Fusco 54 qtd. in Darder 108). One of the most poignant things about the movie is its incorporation of ethnicity within the concept of national identification. Born in East LA, somehow reveals the continuous existence of racism in mainstream America. Not only did Marin’s use of a slightly dark complexion for a protagonist as a means to set him apart from the others, but it also stands as class marker and ethnicity in one.
In the 1980’s cultural mainstream of America, this movie touched the idea that most of the working class in the country were not necessarily white but more of diversified descent. Plot wise, one can easily assume that the film is predictable, as it is expected that Rudy would be deported even if he continuously defend himself, and at the end of it all, he would find the means to return to L. A. However, what makes this movie stand out is the fact that it was able to incorporate a serious issue in a lighter representation; and this perspective is what truly adds up to the good pacing of the movie.
Various hilarious moments can be observed within the films entirety, and the said moments served as the diversion for the audience to look upon the gravity of a movie that in a so many ways could be culturally critiqued. Work cited Born in East L. A. Prod. Coleman, Stan. Dir. Marin Cheech. Perfs. Marin, Cheech, Stern, Daniel and Rodriguez Paul. DVD. Universal Studios, 1987. Darder, Antonia (ed. ). Culture and difference: Critical perspectives on the bicultural experience in the United States. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995
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