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Guatemala has more people than any other Central American country, with an estimated population of 11,980,000 it is home to many different cultures. The population can be divided into two groups; Indians and people of mixed Spanish and Indian ancestry. But in Guatemala, being called an Indian or a non-Indian does not depend entirely on a person's ancestry. It is basically a matter of how people live and of how they categorize themselves. For example, a Guatemalan is considered an Indian if he or she speaks an Indian language, wears Indian clothing, and lives in a community where the people follow the Indian ways of life. The Indians think of themselves more as part of their community than of their country. They pay little attention to affairs outside the community. Indians make up about 45 percent of the population of Guatemala. Most of them are extremely poor and uneducated.
Spanish is the official languages spoken in Guatemala, but there are 20 other Indian languages that are spoken as well. Guatemala's fifth constitution was adopted in 1956. The army seized the government again in 1963, and a sixth constitution went into effect in 1966. Elections were held that year, and civilian government was restored under President Julio Cesar Mendez Montenegro. But the country remained troubled. Secret political extremist groups both rightist and leftist made terror raids. Guatemalan political leaders, the U.S.
ambassador, and others were killed during the raids. The movie "El Norte" tells the story of how two siblings (Enrique and Rosita) lose all of their family to military raids in Mexico. When seems to be next to impossible to survive in Mexico, the two decide to flee to the North (America) which they feel ca be there stepping stone to opportunities and freedom. After a difficult journey the finally arrive in America. As illegal immigrants they had to find immediate work and the had to learn to adjust to American cultures, for instance Rosita did not know how to use a washer and dryer so she did it as if she were still in Mexico. While both of them worked hours of hard labor daily, Enrique is offered a job in Chicago that could guarantee him the right to a green card, but in order to take the job he would have to leave Rosita behind. Meanwhile, Rosita becomes very ill from being exposed to rats during their journey to America.
At the last minute Enrique decides stay with Rosita and he gets to her bedside just as she passes away. In the movies there are three different languages spoken; Quiche, English and Spanish. Rosita spoke Spanish and Quiche, Rosita would speak Spanish outside of the home with friends, but she would speak Quiche during prayer, while talking to her mother, and at her father's funeral. Rosita would speak Spanish as well to Enrique and her brother. Enrique spoke Spanish when he talked with his father and he spoke "broken" English when he was working in America. Rosita had to speak different languages in different scenarios because people really stick to their cultures as well as their respective languages. As for speaking, English it is essential for them to try to learn it in order to increase job opportunities and achieve acceptance in society beyond their own communities.
(Heath 249)Enrique would speak English while he worked in America. He would only speak Spanish to his Spanish-American friends and co-workers. It seemed as if speaking Spanish was relaxing to him because it was like being at home for him, plus it was it was easier for him to relate to other immigrants because they were all going through the same thing. Today most citizens in Mexico speak Spanish, but many small indigenous groups keep their mother tongue. (Heath 254) Four different ethnic groups are represented in this movie: Indians, Mestizos, Chicanos, and Gringos. In this movie we saw Rosita and Enrique's family which seemed to be mixed with Mestizos and Indians which is odd seeing that the two cultures do not see eye to eye. The men of the family spoke Spanish and the women spoke Quiche even though Rosita spoke both.
Enrique's friend Mocte, is considered a Chicano, he has Mexican family and ancestors but he does not follow Mexican cultures and overall feels no political attachment to Mexico (Connor 225). The movie also displayed a "Gringo" with Ms. Alice Harper who was an American woman who offered Enrique a job in Chicago that would help him earn his citizenship and make good money. Each of these ethnic groups have a different relationship towards each other Mestizos and Indians view each other as enemies as we saw when Rosita was on the bus and she had the conflict with the Mexican man behind her over a window. Mestizos view the Chicanos in a negative manner because they feel that they should be in better touch with their heritage but the Chicano's as we saw in the movies gave Mestizos ways of adjusting to American culture as far as employment and even language. The Gringos view the Indians and Mestizos as good hard workers, they are aware of the fact that they need the work so somet8imes they take advantage of them by underpaying them or making them work in unfair conditions.
The Mestizo and Indian immigrants depend on the Gringos for work and education opportunities when they first come to America. There are several cultural differences between Latinos and Indians that we saw in the movie. Indians have more of a tie to their culture and they stick to there family no matter what, whether they stay in their homeland or not. Latinos will branch off and sometimes leave their culture behind them. For example we saw this on two separate occasions Enrique was willing to leave his sister behind when they first went to LA until she convinced him into bringing her with. Then again we saw this when Enrique considered leaving his sister behind so he could work and get a green card instead of sticking with her.
When they got to the United States they were exposed to American cultures that were not like there own. Enrique was introduced to a characteristic of the American society when Macte tried to tell Enrique to leave his sister behind and leap toward the future and leave the past behind him, which is a mentality that most Americans have (Paz 65). As mentioned earlier when Rosita was working she did not know how to use the washer and dryer which seems to be a simple task for Americans but it was unfamiliar to Rosita and she ended up laying the clothes outside. Many North American cultures are taken for granted until we see someone who is not used to simple things such as washing clothes with a machine. Earlier in the movie we saw Rosita washing clothes by hand it was almost as if the movie repeated itself but just showed the same task in a different environment which really stressed the difference in cultures.Work Cited Connor, Walker., Heath Shirley B., and Paz Octavio. Who Are the Mexican-Americans?: A note on Comparability. Washington D.C.: The Urban Press, 1985 "Guatemala" Encyclopedia Britanica. Vol 5.
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