migrant stories

anonymous asked:

L*M*M tries really hard to be a good ally, and actually does better than a lot of straight people (he was the only person at the 2017 Tonys to acknowledge the Pulse anniversary), but his writing choices for both Heights and Hamilton and the way he talks about (and doesn't talk about) Hamilton's bisexuality shows he has some unconscious issues--I'm not really sure whether it's too harsh to call it homophobia or biphobia, but it's disappointing and I wish he'd realize it and try to root it out.

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Yeah I mean- I’ve said this a few times before but to take an obscure figure like Laurens, put him in a musical about his love interest, and NOT tell the story of their relationship speaks so many volumes. I haven’t read many interviews with him, so idk if he’s said things that sound like he has an off view of bisexuality (lmk if I’m missing something!), but when he chooses to talk about it says a lot. He says it in interviews, he says it to the few who can afford tickets. He doesn’t say it in the canon. 

I know with the gay plotline in In the Heights, he was talked out of it by producers. And I can easily see something similar happening with Hamilton (a while back he posted some cut Laurens lyrics that could very well be that). There’s this good video by Lindsey Ellis where she talks about how Hamilton being the first successful rap musical is in part because of how it appealed to the elite. And I don’t think that’s Lin kissing ass or whatever, I think it’s part of the whole Hamilton package, going “oh hey, look at these guys we love to deify, look at how we’re singing about them” on the surface level concept stuff, and then the second the audience engages, making it clear that this is really about the stories of migrants and people of color in this country (which incidentally, is also probably why this fandom either gets people who haven’t listened calling it inexcusably problematic or history blogs resenting it). I think Lin made some calculated decisions to get a musical like this on Broadway, and I think a lot of the time media with social justice messages gets unfairly taken to task for not encompassing all causes, when media without those messages gets a pass. 

But I think part of that calculation was jettisoning queer representation to make it more palatable to the mainstream. And I think that if Lin weren’t cishet, he would not have made that decision. And he clearly is trying to put it in other places, but we’re seeing the limits of that. Apparently the other Laurens and Hamilton actors don’t play Lams. All the Hamilton bandwagon-jumping material is ignoring his sexuality. He had an opportunity and he did not take it and I think that if he had, it could have been something really meaningful.

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The Runner

“I first came to Singapore 30 years ago after I was tricked into marriage. I was a teenager and a boy from my village who really liked me kept charming my parents with presents and kind words. I wasn’t interested but eventually they agreed to have me go over to meet his parents for dinner. I still remember the last thing they said to him as we went off to dinner was,

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On March 17, 1995, Flor Contemplacion was executed.

There are many things that you can find out about Flor: That she had three children.  That she was born in Laguna.  That she was a domestic worker in Hong Kong.  But what most everyone will remember is that she was executed.  And the action that came from the Philippine government was not sufficient and too late.

Identifying with the experiences of Flor, Filipino overseas workers responded with force and launched protest actions internationally.  At the time, there were an estimated 798,000 overseas Filipino workers, roughly about 1% of the total population.  But the amount of remittances that the overseas Filipino workers had brought into the country after the 1997 economic crisis amounted to $7 billion.

Since the 1980s, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) have brought so much money into the Philippines that they have come to be known asbagong bayani, or new heroes.

But these new heroes who leave the Philippines out of desperation, with poverty and unemployment stalking their families, so often face oppression—from discrimination and wage theft to rape and execution—in their destination countries.  Like Flor Contemplacion, they receive little to no help from the Philippine government.

The best that these new heroes can hope for is to die alone, with no family by their side.

Meet Lorna Sun.  On March 20, 2014, she died of cardiac arrest.  She was 65 years old and the lone breadwinner of her family back in the Philippines.  For 16 years, she worked in New York City for 24 hours, 7 days a week, earning only $900 per week.  It amounted to earning $6.08 per hour.  Was it any surprise that she should die of a heart attack?

Only her fellow Filipino migrant workers could stand in for the family that was separated from her and take care of her remains.  When her friend went to the Philippine Consulate to ask for help, as Ate Lorna had no money at the time of her death, the Philippine government unsympathetically responded that it would be too expensive to ship her body back home and that it was best to get her body cremated.

Nineteen years after the execution of Flor Contemplacion, the Philippine government still failed to protect Filipino migrants. There had been no change in the living and working conditions of migrant workers since the time of Flor Contemplacion.

No change can be expected because the roots of the issue have not been addressed.  If anything, the untenable situation of migrants continues to worsen; now, heads of state have blatantly encouraged the export of Filipino workers rather than provide jobs, land, and social services in the Philippines.  Filipino migrants are still being sold as cheap and vastly profitable labor across the world.  The Philippine government has so perfected its labor export policy that other states have become interested in its model of “migration for development” and are attempting to re-create it.  As for OFWs, well, the unfortunate fact is that virtually nothing has changed in the Philippines, and they will starve if they do not go abroad.  So they face the same problems: discrimination, wage theft, labor exploitation, lonely deaths, and even unjust imprisonment and execution.

Meet Mary Azano.  She was brought to the US by her employer. While she had been promised to be paid hourly for 40 hours per week, all she got was $300 monthly.  It amounted to $1.87 per hour.  Her documents, even her passport, were taken, and when the family went home to the Philippines, she was sent to her employer’s family friend in Seattle, where she was still paid $300 per month.  And now, she was asked to do work even on the weekends.  Sometimes she would be asked to clean her new employer’s sister’s home for $25 for the day.  She worked so much that she started to become sick.

She left that employer and went back to California, eventually working at different care homes.  But there, she experienced physical abuse.  Her patient kicked her in the face, and a co-worker slapped her so hard that it left a bruise on her face.  When she reported this incident to her employer, her employer said that Mary could not do anything because she was undocumented.

Well, why would Mary’s employer not hesitate to say this?  The Philippine state is interested not in the welfare of overseas Filipino workers, but in the growing remittances from Filipino migrants ($25 billion in 2013).  And the U.S. government is interested not in protecting undocumented workers’ rights, but in maintaining a pool of cheap, disposable labor.   We should not be surprised that Mary’s employer would have the audacity to deny her her labor rights.

But in 2009, after meeting with Filipino Advocates for Justice and PAWIS East Bay and learning about her rights as a worker, Mary filed a wage theft claim and succeeded in winning her case, proving that she could, in fact, do something.

Mary is not the only migrant worker to prove this.  In 2014, in New York, after Lorna’s friend received a cold reception from the Philippine Consulate, Filipinos held a vigil, together with representatives from Philippine Forum, GABRIELA-NY, AnakBayan NY, AnakBayan NJ, BAYAN-USA, NAFCON-NE, Migrante NY/NJ, and Florida 15 Trafficked Survivors in front of the Philippine Consulate to demand financial assistance for Ate Lorna and her family.  The following day, the consulate called Lorna’s friend and said that a check was ready for pick-up.

There had been only specious and vague promises until Lorna’s fellow Filipino migrants through Kabalikat Domestic Worker’s Network of Philippine Forum in New York fought for justice—in the same way that Flor’s fellow Filipino migrants made their voices heard and called international attention to the plight of OFWs back in 1995.

In 2015, under President Noynoy Aquino’s administration, there are 6,092 Filipinos leaving the country every day (Source: IBON Foundation).  The remittances they bring in are about 10% of the total Gross Domestic Product of the Philippines.  The Philippine government makes huge money off migrants, from the schools they set up so they can go abroad, to the fees that they pay at every step of the way to get to their destination countries, to the taxes that come out of their remittances.
Flor Contemplacion was one name.  So is Lorna Sun.  So is Mary Azana.  And there are so many more.

There are many stories of migrants who have been trafficked, migrants who have faced racism, migrants who are awaiting death sentences in foreign jails because they have no representation and no help from their own government. But there are just as many stories of migrants resisting being just goods, being just cheap labor, without any rights of their own.
Just as there as many stories of exploitation and rape, there are as many stories of migrants fighting back and standing up—not only to hold the Philippine state accountable to the protection and rights due to them as workers supporting the Philippine economy, but also to fight the roots of the problem: an unsustainable Philippine economy, policies that favor and protect the interests of foreign and multinational companies, landlessness, and the Philippine government’s complete and utter lack of interest in the well-being of the Filipino people.

Ate Mary tells us: “I want my story to be told.  I want to tell everybody that it’s very hard to stay here in the US if you don’t have a job and you have no family here.  It’s so hard here.  People back home think it’s so easy here, they think it’s just so easy to get the money.  But it’s so hard here, with the abuse we experience because we are undocumented.  Still, we have to fight, we have to stand up for our rights, and we have to be patient because justice can take a long time.  I also want to open the eyes of the employers too—we have rights and they need to know it…”

People called Flor, Lorna, and Mary the “new heroes.”  But they are not heroes for having made money for the Philippines.  They are our heroes because they stood up and fought back.


In 2014, a hit new song began to climb the charts on Central American radio. “La Bestia” is an upbeat, jaunty as hell tune that sounds like it could be the theme to Zorro, unless you speak Spanish, in which case you realize this earworm is laying eggs in your brain that will hatch into nightmares.

With lyrics like “The route to hell within a cloud of pains” and “A mortar that crushes, a machete that slices,” “La Bestia” tells the story of migrants who travel to America on one of Mexico’s freight trains – or as the song describes it, “this wretched train of death with the Devil in the boiler.” The message is clear: If you’re thinking about migrating to America, you’re probably going to suffer a violent death so miserable that your family won’t even remember you to mourn your passing.

The geniuses behind this Hispanic approximation of a Creedence song? None other than the US Customs and Border Protection Agency. It’s one of several songs that the US government commissioned to be produced and snuck onto Hispanic radio playlists in an attempt to convince people that attempting to reach the Land of the Free means crossing the apparently Mordor-like hellscape of Central America, and it’s better to deal with the cartels.

6 Insane Examples Of Modern Propaganda By Major Countries

No, the governors can’t stop Syrian migrants
Since the Paris attacks, thirty Governors have declared their opposition to resettling Syrian refugees within their states. New Jersey's Chris Christie, Georgia's Nathan Deal, Illinois's Bruce Rauner, and several others have stated flatly that their states will not accept new Syrian refugees.

Here’s the fact about governors’ plans to block the entry of refugees or any other immigrants to their states: They can’t do it. The decision to admit a person to the United States belongs to the federal government exclusively. Once a person is legally admitted to the United States, she can live wherever she chooses. States don’t issue visas any more than they declare war. Indeed, putting foreign affairs under the firm control of one central government was one of the primary motivations of the Founders in creating the Constitution in the first place.


NPR Correspondent Carrie Kahn sends in this note:

This past week I’ve been at the Guatemala-Mexico border reporting on the plight of Central Americans heading to the United States. This summer record numbers of unaccompanied minors and families fleeing the region have showed up at the U.S.-Mexico border. Last month the numbers dropped dramatically. Still, there was no shortage of migrants with stories to tell about fleeing violence, poverty and hunger in the hopes of finding something better up north. The stories are harrowing, disturbing and violent. They stick with you for a long time.

But I also got to meet some fun, joyful and generous people along the way. Here are two of them.

Alambritos Piernas Locas, the Clown (top, photo by Carrie Kahn/NPR). I met him at the Suchiate River that separates Mexico and Guatemala. Translated, he is Wiry Crazy Legs, the Clown. He too rides the illegal rafts that float merchandise, contraband and migrants across the river night and day. He gets up, puts on his oversized shoes and make-up and heads across to Guatemala to entertain for pennies in the parks and side streets of the dusty border town. His smile may be painted on, but at the end of a long, hot day in a place where little is light and easy, he was bright, beautiful and a sight for sore eyes.

Juan Carlos Rodriguez (bottom, photo by Carrie Kahn/NPR). He was at a bus stop just north of the border. I was talking to bus drivers about accusations that they extort and overcharge Central American migrants. It was a tense situation. I could feel all eyes were on me. Just then Juan Carlos came up. He sells gum, candy and small cooked cobs of corn. He has a wide grin, teeth filled with silver and a great voice. For some reason I asked him if he was a singer and without missing a beat he broke into a wonderful a capella rendition of “La Flor del Rio,” a popular Mexican song. The mood at the bus stop calmed quickly. Everyone was silent as he sang on, not always in tune, but with great vigor. When he hit that last note everyone was applauding and smiling. Listen:

An Open Letter to John Oliver

Dear John Oliver,

At first I couldn’t figure out why I was so upset by your segment about Ecuador and Rafael Correa. And then I thought “of course I am offended,” in one 3-minute clip, you had made a mockery of one of the most important progressive political projects in the world that was delivering so many important changes in the lives of Ecuadorian citizens. Of course, Rafael Correa is not perfect. The citizen revolution is not perfect, far from it. Political processes will never be without flaws and the project here in Ecuador is no exception. But first I must be transparent. Seven years ago my husband asked me to leave Canada with my 9-month old son so that he could return to his home country of Ecuador and be part of a new process, a revolution that sought to re-build a country destroyed by inequality, poverty, foreign interests and neoliberal economic policies. We had to leave in two weeks. I said yes. So, in the interests of transparency, yes, this is personal.

Don’t get me wrong. I also cringed when Rafael Correa started naming the people behind the twitter accounts that were attacking him. I thought, “why are you focusing on this when we could be talking about so many other more important issues?” And in fact, only when I watched your segment and I felt frustrated and angry did I understand why the President had called out the twitter accounts that were attacking him directly. He was hurt. Unlike in other governments, Correa actually talks directly to his citizens. I know it is hard for us North Americans (or almost North Americans) to even comprehend this. I mean we are used to layers of bureaucracy spinning messages before anything even gets into the public discourse. In fact, in Canada hardly anything really gets into the public discourse because the current Prime Minister has a de facto gag order on his ministers. The weekly Enlace Ciudadano – Citizen Link – (the one with the clown that you made fun of) is a weekly synopsis by the President directly to Ecuadorian citizens about how he presided over the country the preceding week. Imagine that. No really…try to imagine that level of accountability in the US or Canada. I know, almost impossible right?

In the same way, the President actually manages his own twitter account. Seriously. It’s true. So he writes his tweets and he reads those addressed to him. So, for him it is personal when someone says he wants to put a bullet in his head. People are not weeding out those tweets for him in some weekly dumbed down “social media” report. Why does Correa manage his own account? Probably because it is another way for him to interact directly with Ecuadorians. And that is how Correa governs. He speaks to citizens; he makes commitments to the people that elected him about health, education and the economy. He makes commitments to change. And he takes these commitments both seriously and personally. His eyes well up when he reads letters from migrants with personal stories of sacrifice. I know this as a fact because I was with him when he read one of these letters. And he asked all of his colleagues to also read the letter to remind them why they were there; what they were fighting for. He takes it personally when sick people are not properly attended to; when children don’t have quality education. And it is because he takes it personally, because he feels their pain, that things get done. Migrants get voting rights and they get programs and opportunities to return home. Bad hospital administrators get replaced with those that put patients needs first. Schools get built. People get educated. Progress happens.

And so I ask you, should Correa be mocked for governing in this way? Should we ask our politicians to grow thicker skins so that they don’t give a shit about anything? So that they don’t feel affected by anything? Or do we need more leaders who take their political roles personally. Who wear their hearts on their sleeves. I think it would do us all some good, here in Ecuador and probably in other countries too, to see the humanity of our leaders and to take a moment to empathize with those that take their jobs personally and who are actually affected when people wish them harm.

So, John. I invite you to come to Ecuador. Come see for yourself what is happening here. I will even take you to an Enlace Ciudadano! The President will probably sing. There will be laughter and things to celebrate. You will see the President’s passion and charisma and you will probably also see his frustration and anger. You will see him as a real person. With real feelings. With real frustrations. With strengths and weaknesses. Through these interactions we can explore the citizen revolution. What is happening here is important for progressive movements around the world and it really deserves to get a fair shot at telling its story – the whole story.

With warm regards,

Shannon Rohan