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First of all, I really love the artsy movie poster. If anyone is reading this, I am shamelessly broadcasting my Christmas wish for this movie poster so i can hang it up in my classroom. I will be your best friend and i’ll have you sign it on the back to remind me who my real friends are…hehe.

El Norte depicts two young immigrants’ arduous journey from a small village in Guatemala to the US. They are not only lured by the fantastic rumors of wealth in “El Norte”, but are nearly murdered by the local military. The oppressive military government, paranoid of an indian revolution, raid the local village, killing the men and abducting all the women. One particularly gruesome scene shows a strung up, severed head on a tree as an example to all who might stir up commotion. The head belongs to the father of Rosa and Enrique, our two orphan heroes who must run for their lives from the random abductions and killings with no more than $20 in their pockets and a naive, village folk hope to reach the Promised Land – the USA.

Despite their slim chances and ignorance, they make it to the famed “El Norte” of Los Angeles. At first, everything seems to go well – Enrique (now “Ricky”) lands a “cushy” job as a bus boy in a posh restaurant and Rosa cleans the large house of a white lady while both take nightly ESL classes to help them survive. Soon enough, however, Rosa and Enrique find that their luck is beginning to run out. Just as quickly as he got his job, Enrique flees from Immigration authorities acting on a tip from a jealous coworker, and Rosa suddenly faints from fever caused by a disease she contracted from rats in the tunnel she burrowed through to get across the border.

In the last scenes, Enrique forsakes a promising job as a foreman in Chicago to be with his sister in her last, dying moments. Sadly, there is no respite for those on the margin. He goes home to lay on his bed in the now empty apartment, but only to wake early again to desperately clamor for the attention of other trucks looking for cheap labor. The last scene is particularly cruel: Enrique, still numb from his sister’s sudden death, is seen shoveling dirt with a crew of other illegals in front of the wooden frame of a suburban house. The director cruelly paints a picture, where a symbol of the American dream – the suburban house – stands before those who work hard to secure this dream, but in light of Enrique’s and all immigrants’ lives, we know that that dream is not meant for them.

The scene suddenly cuts to the severed head of Enrique and Rosa’s father, slowly spinning on a string, with its gaping lips silhouetted black against the orange, afternoon sun, aghast at what he has seen. With all three family members dead, Enrique must live like a “true” American – in complete isolation.




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