Two immigrants in search of the American dream

Jennifer Cuevas

To mark the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the film, “El Norte,” was shown nationwide at select theaters on Sept. 15, marking the film’s 35th anniversary. The film was originally released on Jan. 24, 1984. 

“El Norte” tells the story of siblings, Rosa Xuncax (Zaide Silvia Gutierrez) and Enrique Xuncax (David Villalpando), who must flee from Guatemala because of political violence. After their father is killed by the Guatemalan military and their mother is taken, Rosa and Enrique are left to survive on their own. The siblings embark on their journey to the north, with very little money and only the clothes on their backs with the hopes of a better life in the U.S. 

After leaving Guatemala, their first stop is in Tijuana, Mexico. They look for a “coyote,” Raimundo Gutierrez (Abel Franco), who was recommended to them.  The term coyote refers to someone who illegally crosses people from the Mexican border over to the U.S. Raimundo agrees to help Rosa and Enrique cross, but only through the old sewage tunnels that connects Tijuana and the U.S. However through the mountains in order to avoid getting caught. 

The tunnel scene was the most difficult to watch because a swarm of rats attack Rosa and Enrique as they are crawling through. A couple of movie goers were covering their eyes and “Oh my God” was heard throughout the theater. This particular scene was very impactful as it shows the great lengths people will go through to escape the danger in their native lands. 

Families are still being separated and many South American immigrants still face similar governmental problems as they did 35 years ago, which this film illustrates. This makes this film still relevant today..  

The director, Gregory Nava, was featured in an interview before the film began and spoke directly to the audience, discussing the relevancy this film has today.

“35 years…and the situation is still the same,” Nava said. “The story of Rosa and Enrique is even more relevant than 35 years ago.” 

The journey of Rosa and Enrique was finally completed when they reached Los Angeles, but their hardships were sadly not. The film shows the difficulties of communicating with a language barrier, surviving on a low paying job and the fear of being caught by immigration officers.