June 23, 2000

A Wedding on the Border

P.O.V.'s La Boda Offers Seldom Seen View of Mexican-American Migrant Life

Elizabeth Luis is marrying Artemio Guerrero, and we are all invited to the wedding. In Hannah Weyer' latest film, La Boda, Elizabeth's family and community offer an intimate portrait of migrant life and traditions as the weeks leading up to the ceremony bring friends and family together. Stable, optimistic, hard-working, and as American as they are Mexican, this community doesn't fit anybody's stereotype of migrant workers.

Elizabeth, the 22 year-old bride-to-be, has grown up with experiences distinct to migrant life along the U.S. Mexican border. For her being a migrant has meant sacrificing education for field work and social life to travel as her family moves constantly between Texas, California, and Mexico. Crossing and recrossing the border, the Luis family succeeds at keeping their roots in Mexico alive while seeking economic opportunity in the U.S. They are neither poverty-stricken nor foreign, having become U.S. citizens. But they must contend with the image of migrant workers as both illegal and alien, as well as the harsh realities of this transient way of life.

Elizabeth and Artemio’s wedding photo.

Weyer deftly weaves the drama of the wedding preparations with interviews of family members and other participants to reveal the larger story of a people living between two worlds. Elizabeth's mother, Juanita, is an energetic and loving matriarch who becomes our guide to the saving economies of the extended family. Elizabeth's fiancé, Artemio, is ardent in expressing his love of Mexico and the hardships of life for migrant workers in the U.S. Yet he insists just as strongly that there is no other hope for him and Elizabeth than to seek a better future on "el otro lado"—the other side.

Elizabeth herself is charming, strong-willed, and full of dreams. She is, by turns, mature beyond her years as she reflects on her life as a migrant worker and girlishly naive as she anticipates marriage with Artemio.

"Before I met Elizabeth, for me the word `migrant' was synonymous with `illegal,' `poor,' and `victim,'" says filmmaker Weyer. "It wasn't until I was invited into the Luis family's home and community that I truly began to understand the complex and nuanced culture of migrant life. In La Boda, I wanted to portray all that this community has rather than what they lack. The film is a much a love story as it is a portrait of migrant life and Mexican family traditions."

La Boda airs Tuesday, June 27, 10 p.m. ET on P.O.V., public television's award-winning showcase of independent nonfiction films.

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