Nov 12, 2009

we know this story

i gave a talk at UCLA Law School on Tuesday, in Saul Sarabia's seminar "Latinos and the Law" - about my film, and it's relationship to IMPRENTA organizing and the legal clinic. we were discussing a bunch of amazing shared references: this book called Seeking Community in a Gobal City, which is about Central American immigrant experiences in MacArthur Park, Los Angeles in the 80s. we also looked at the case of Victoria Arellano, a 23 year-old undocumented transwoman who died in a detention center in 2007, because authorities refused to administer her HIV meds. There is a nice well-written article on the subject by Ben Ehrenreich, who is a friend of Saul's:

...No matter how heated the larger debate on immigration becomes, it is safe to predict that Victoria Arellano will not be a poster child for either side. HIV-positive, transgender, with a history of drug addiction, she falls far outside the image of the ideal immigrant. Her death was too cruel, too humiliating to be of use to even the angriest extremists of the nativist right. She has become something of a martyr in the small community of transgender advocates, but Arellano’s fame stops there. Not only her death but her life—the very fact of her existence—makes too many people too uncomfortable.
Until 1996, immigration law used a telling term to refer to noncitizens who can be legally denied residency in the United States. They were not only excluded, although they were that, too; they were “excludable.” The idea still prevails. They provide an opportunity for exclusion, for the nation to define itself by what it is not. Victoria Arellano was almost perfectly unwanted: not just a Latina, but an immigrant; not just an immigrant, but illegal; not just gay, but transgender; not just transgender, but infected with HIV—and an addict to boot. She did not merely slip through the cracks of the system. The system, cracks and all, was built with her in mind...


this is story really powerful source material for the film because it ties together a major schism between the immigrant rights and transgender movement. i want the film to focus on this schism because i think framing the Silver Platter in terms of gender over-simplifies it, kinda misses the point. on the other hand within the immigration debate, gender becomes a complication that really challenges people. that's how we arrived at Raquel's story... or rather, how I keep returning to it. coincidentally, Victoria's favorite singer was GLORIA TREVI, who is featured in the the film. i can't say more about that yet but i'm soooooo excited to real SOON.

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