Across generations

Lost: 1,400 jobs, some lives and much hope. It has been a strange year, filled with unprecedented events for all of us. The Latino community witnessed the loss of a major employer, Mexican Industries. The long battle to bring the union into this major parts supplier owned by former Tiger Hank Aguirre ended sadly. Workers voted in the UAW; the plant closed. Some 1,400 people out of work, one of the company's subsidiaries, Dos Manos, rushed to finish orders by putting people on overtime schedules and then issued layoff notices to the remaining workers. The same week of the attack on the World Trade Center, a worker from Dos Manos, a 65-year-old Cuban man, got his layoff notice, took a gun to work, shot two co-workers and then turned the gun on himself. (Let's hear it for the NRA!) No flag was lowered, no plant shut down to pay sad tribute to the convergence of all these broken dreams: Arrival to the promised land; the phenomena of Mexican Industries, (capitalism in post-industrial Detroit) providing jobs for the Mexican community in Detroit (the Empowerment Zone?), the thrill of a union victory, the UAW in Detroit, the labor capital of the world? So many questions in the New Order.

Found: Our elders' story. A group of us, descendants of Mexican families who arrived in Detroit in the '20s and '30s, celebrated the 300th birthday of Detroit by documenting the oral history of Los Repatriados, offering this tribute to our elders who were deported during the Depression. Approximately 15,000 Mexicans were voluntarily or forcefully deported between 1929 and 1939. Many who returned never talked about it, thus, it is a little-known event in our own community.

On Oct. 7, 300 people from our Mexican community went to the to the Detroit Institute of Arts to view the screening of Los Repatriados: Exiles from the Promised Land. They also participated in the first public discussion with Chicano historians and elders who themselves were deported during this sad epoch in our history. Children are asked to interview their grandparents; we are making connections with our elders and youth in ways we never dreamed possible. Artwork, theatrical productions, music and video documentaries are reflecting this lost era, now revealed to us, thanks to our elders. We hope this tale of our history serves to galvanize us and all immigrant groups for the impending scapegoating and deportations facing us now. The difference between then and now? There was no one willing to defend the Mexicans from government agencies. Because of their efforts, we are here and we will stand against such injustices: Nunca Mas! Never Again! Elena Herrada is a union organizer and political

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Metro Times Staff

Since 1980, Metro Times has been Detroit’s premier alternative source for news, arts, culture, music, film, food, fashion and more from a liberal point of view.
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