The rapid growth of the nation’s Latino community has sparked a long and ongoing national debate over immigration, yet the reality is that many of us know little about the true roots of migration or the powerful forces that brought so many immigrants from Latin America to the United States.
Have you been taught about the US as an empire before?
Were you aware of the history of US intervention in Latin America before watching the documentary?
Three Key Concepts
.Imperialism is a policy or ideology of extending a country’s rule over foreign nations, often by military force or by gaining political and economic control of other areas.
.Colonialism is the policy of a country seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of economic dominance. In the process, colonizers may impose their religion, economics, and other cultural practices on the Indigenous people.
.Neocolonialism is the practice of using capitalism, globalization, and cultural imperialism to influence a developing country instead of the previous colonial methods of direct military control or indirect political control.
Based on the landmark book (now in its third updated edition) by journalist Juan González, the award-winning documentary Harvest of Empire explores the hidden history of US Latine/x communities and takes an unflinching look at the role that US military actions and economic interests played in triggering unprecedented waves of migration from the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico.
.The wars for territorial expansion gave the U.S. control of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and half of México.
.Neo-colonialism: U.S. corporate and trade hegemony (Sugar Companies; United Fruit Company; NAFTA)
.The hidden CIA led operations that imposed and back-up oppressive military regimes in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.
A pull factor is something that pulls a person to immigrate to another country. Examples of pull factors are job or education opportunities, religious freedom, and a cheaper living situation.
A push factor is a reason why people have to leave their home countries, such as war, famine, persecution, or violence.
What pull and push factors did you identify in the documentary? What is the difference between a refugee and an immigrant? What commonalities can we find between the different Latinx migrant groups? What issues do they face upon arrival/ what contributions do they add to the United States?
Bring concrete examples from the documentary.
Expand on one of the following quotes
How do these three quotes from the documentary intersect? How would you summarize their messages?
.“If what exists in Guatemala [Latin America] is persecution, murder, killing, if what you have is insecurity, then I prefer to cross the border and go to a place where I feel safer.” -Rigoberta Menchú, human rights activist, Nobel Prize winner
.“The instability that we [the United States] have contributed to creates the kind of chaos and disarray that leads to more immigration. Because you can argue that if we move into these societies, and contribute to this dysfunction, we have a moral obligation to help the people who feel unsafe in the situations that we, in part, have created.” -Melvin Goodman, former CIA Division Chief
.“There is no such thing as an illegal human being, as an illegal immigrant, as an illegal alien; to call people illegal is the beginning of dehumanizing.” -María Hinojosa, Mexican-American journalist