The Sunday, January 8, screening of El Bracero del Año at the Granada Theatre was timely given the political climate and the hot topic that immigration has become. The hosts of the film series, Assemblymember Monique Limón, and local media personality Andy “El Genio” (The Genius) Lucas- Valdes, invited the Mexican Consulate for a prescreening discussion on the film’s themes of migration and the “American Dream.” Jonathan Elías Alvarez-Alzua, the consul for Community Affairs for the consulate, attended the event representing the Mexican Consulate. “It’s a great honor to be here today,” said Alvarez before presenting the Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts and the Granada Theatre with certificates of recognition for promoting Mexican culture.
The film series, Cine en Domingo (Theater on Sunday), is in its second season, following Época de Oro (Golden Era), which focused on Mexican films throughout the ’40s and ’50s. “It was exciting, but limited,” said David Grossman, director of community engagement at the Granada, on the transition to Cine en Domingo. “We want to engage and inspire all parts of the community,” said Grossman about the series, “and have the community experience the magic of the Granada.”
For Limón, one of the most rewarding aspects of her involvement is “seeing the number of people that have never been [to the Granada] before.” Two years ago, they were looking to touch more lives in Santa Barbara, and this film series grew out of it, she said.
During the Q&A, Consul Alvarez touched on the “nice message” the film leaves with viewers. “All people who work as field workers are campeones — champions,” he said to the crowd. “You admire their values and work ethic. They overcome so many obstacles and make many contributions to our society.” Everyone associates the consulate with documents and paperwork, but it also has services to help people legally, as well as in health and education. “We also provide places for children to practice their Spanish; we hold football events. It’s your house, and it’s here to serve you,” Alvarez concluded.
The consul spoke to The Santa Barbara Independent prior to the film about the complex relationship between the U.S. and Mexico and the role the consulate plays. “The bracero program was born out of necessity for physical labor because many of the young men were off fighting in World War II. Now, the relationship is driven by economic need,” said Alvarez, referencing the $19 billion in taxes Mexicans contribute to the U.S. while only using $5 billion in services. “When the U.S., Mexico, and Canada’s populations are combined, they from the perfect population to create the most competitive economy that there is,” said Alvarez. The populations become perfectly calibrated, he clarified, the immigrants coming in are young and ready to work.
The anti-immigration hysteria that appears to be following Trump into the White House, however, suggests these immigrants could be dangerous and potential criminals. The truth of the matter is immigrants are less likely to commit crimes because of their immigration status. “They are leaving a positive impact,” insisted Alvarez. “They are hard workers. They are innovators. They are risk takers, and they help the economy,” he added.
Regarding Trump’s anti-immigration, anti-Mexican, stance, Alvarez said, “Fear is never helpful. Let’s prepare, but not panic.” People should know there are rights that protect them in the U.S. and that they are not alone. In the Dreamer’s case, it is against the Constitution to use their information against them, he said. Alvarez encouraged people to learn about the consulate’s services. “We can provide assistance with whatever problems,” he said. The consulate can be contacted to ensure people’s basic rights are being met — including understanding legal situations, having contact with their families in both Mexico and the U.S., having access to medical attention, and so on. The consulate also helps families transport the bodies of deceased relatives back to Mexico.
Right now, Alvarez warned, people should be wary of being fooled. There are many people posing as lawyers who are falsely promising immigrants papers or other legal services. “It’s important that people don’t go off information from word of mouth, but by official word,” he advised.
The consulate offers a 24-hour service where people can call to ask questions, file claims, or locate family members: (805) 889-0241