Echando Raices/Taking Root

Film. By Rachael Kamel/JT Takagi. 2002. 60 minutes.
The struggles of immigrants through the personal stories of families in communities in California, Texas, and Iowa.

Time Periods: 21st Century, 2001-
Themes: Immigration, Labor

Filled with personal and poignant stories, Echando Raices/Taking Root focuses on the struggles of immigrants in different U.S. communities in California, Texas, and Iowa. Many of those interviewed are themselves labor or community organizers, so a hopeful, activist current runs through each of the three episodes, which explore why people came to the United States, their process of adjustment, day laborer and undocumented rights, and tensions between immigrants and longtime residents.

A Mexican immigrant in the first episode describes how Latina and Hmong women have begun to meet together: “There are so many different people from different places living here, but I never stopped to think about why they came, or if their problems were similar to ours or about their way of thinking or living. And all of us are fighting for a better future.” But a Houston day laborer also describes the excruciating isolation, with his wife and five children at home in Mexico: “We’re always alone. We see each other once in a while — but what we had as husband and wife, that’s all over now. Now we look at each other like a couple of strangers. And it’s all because of the economy. It’s destroying our families.”

The video’s final episode focuses on Perry, Iowa, where a shutdown at a well-paying Oscar Mayer meatpacking plant throws over 800 people out of work. In comes another company, IBP (a subsidiary of the Tyson Foods giant), which starts workers at $6.50 an hour, for dangerous and difficult work. And, surprise, IBP recruits immigrant workers, mostly from Mexico, to fill these jobs. The video lays out the community tensions without trying to suggest simplistic solutions. [Description by Bill Bigelow, Rethinking Schools.]

In Spanish and English.


Produced by the American Friends Service Committee.

View excerpts on the AFSC YouTube channel.