So by now, Donald Trump has switched bigotry gears and focused his hateful vitriol on our Muslim brothers and sisters, but his infamous comment about Mexican immigrants “bringing drugs, bringing crime” and being rapists has already become part of American folklore. Luckily this time, before he turns his attention back to his irrational hatred of the Mexican people, he’ll hopefully have the chance to check out an upcoming PBS documentary entitled East of Salinas.
What this inspirational feature might teach the Donald is that Mexican immigrants also bring young math whizzes with them across the border – in this case a gifted, Mexican-born 8-year-old boy by the name of José Ansaldo. Filmmakers Laura Pacheco and Jackie Mow followed this young son of migrant farmworkers living in the iconic Salinas Valley over the course of three years, documenting his struggles with the instability of life as an undocumented family living on the edge of the economic abyss. Despite his mother and stepfather’s inability to speak English, Ansaldo takes to his studies and demonstrates an extraordinary knack for mathematics, a gift which is nurtured by a well-meaning teacher who also happens to be the son of migrant farmworkers.
It’s a story many of us are all too familiar with, but as this nation’s immigration debate continues boiling over into a seemingly intractable culture war, such reminders of the human side of this issue are ever more appreciated. Pacheco and Mow appear to approach the subject matter in a fairly straightforward style, using play interviews and observational footage to invite us into the world of this young boy and his family, who give a face and a name to this looming crisis of the American dream.
East of Salinas premieres as part of PBS’ Independent Lens on December 28, 2015 at 10 p.m.