Many immigrant families have migrated to the United States because their motherlands are not able to provide as many opportunities to survive. Therefore, families have crossed over borders to escape from poverty and violence. My paper focuses on the theme of sacrifices showcased throughout Maid in America. The documentary, directed by Anayansi Prado, takes place in Los Angeles and Guatemala. The theme of sacrifice is connected through the stories of three strong women that have experienced poverty and other socio-economic issues. I will analyze Maid in America and compare the stories from the different perspectives of Eva and Judith as undocumented immigrant workers in Los Angeles.
In the United States, Central American immigrants sacrifice their time and effort to provide their families with better lives. Anayansi Prado’s film, Maid in America, focuses on the hardships of domestic workers living in the United States. In this film, domestic workers like Eva and Judith deal with struggles in their motherland that affect them in the United States. Eva and Judith are from different countries but share similar experiences that are similar to the experiences of millions of domestic workers in the United States. While it is true that domestic workers are hardworking, people should understand that they struggle every day. The United States is a nation built on the idea of endless opportunities for all. For many immigrant workers, however, those opportunities are not fully guaranteed. Furthermore, the sacrifices and transnational dilemmas of their stories shine a light on the issues undocumented domestic workers in the U.S. face every day.
In Prado’s film, the director explains that Eva struggled to obtain a job while having a bachelor’s degree in public accounting that she earned in Mexico. As an immigrant worker, Eva did not have enough opportunities to apply for a suitable workplace. On top of that, she faces many obstacles in her quest to become an accountant in the U.S. Eva states, “When I was in Mexico I thought that if I got here, I could get a better job because I studied public accountant [sic] but when I got here I realized that it wasn’t that easy,” (Maid in America 00:05:42-00:06:02). Despite being devastated by the news, Eva continues to have hope of one day becoming an accountant in Los Angeles. In her spare time, Eva studies to become a seasonal tax accountant. She says, “Since I don’t have the resources to go to college what I’ve been doing is just study some courses related to accounting,” (Maid in America 00:06:21-33). This is significant because Eva’s dedication as a graduate from another country, leads her to study accounting again in the United States. This peek into Eva’s life shows viewers that she is a strong character for continuing her studies after realizing her diplomas and sacrifices were not valid in the U.S. Additionally, this shows viewers how difficult it is for immigrants to find a job and that some immigrants, like Eva, are highly educated but in the motherland, they are still unable to provide for their families. This is why they choose to immigrate.
Central American families are separated by the border but not by their hearts. Separated families living in the United States, love one another through the smallest actions, even from long distances.
Central American families are separated by the border but not by their hearts. Separated families living in the United States, love one another through the smallest actions, even from long distances. Such an example is motherhood because being a mother often means sacrifice and dedication. While Eva has the opportunity to study, Judith does not because she is a mother of four elder children and one baby on the way. When viewers are introduced to Judith, she is pregnant and in her third trimester. Throughout the film, she becomes a strong woman in hopes of building a future for her family. Judith works daily and half of her income is sent to her daughters in Guatemala. She states, “What I send to them is pretty much half of what I earn. I have to send them money every 15 days so they can eat. It’s a huge sacrifice,” (Maid in America 00:10:55-00:11:07). This is significant because Judith is a hard-working mother that does not want her daughters to live in extreme poverty. After all, Judith is happy with the sacrifices, “I don’t believe in having a lot of kids, especially when you don’t have a lot to offer them, but the baby is coming and it’s truly a joy,” (Maid in America 00:04:29-38). This is also important because it shows the dedication and commitment as a mother surrounded by borders. It is quite painful for Judith to feel the separation between her daughters as she sacrifices her time for money. Despite the hurt she feels, she continues to send money to her family.
Many immigrants wish to return to their countries; however, it is easier said than done. Eva and Judith explain the struggles of leaving family behind in their country. It is heartbreaking news for them because they have to face the fact that they cannot run back home easily. Eva had not returned to Mexico in five years and left without saying goodbye to her loved ones. At times she wonders if it was the best option of crossing the border, “You know, when hard days come I take the time to think about all these situations [staying away] from family…staying away from friends and my nephews and all, well all my family, and I think is it worth [it] or not?” (Maid in America 00:11:48-00:12:16). Eva’s lack of family in the United States is affecting her. Also, when Eva’s sister informs her of a death in the family, Eva is devastated. Eva recounts, “She said to me, ‘Our grandma just passed away’ and oh my goodness I wanted to have a private airplane in order to fly to Mexico in that moment, but I couldn’t do that” (Maid in America 00:13:23-49). Eva grieves and wants to fly back to Mexico to pay her respects; however, she is unable to leave the country. Eva has to decide on two options. Either stay in Los Angeles and continue to work as a cleaner or go back to Mexico and struggle again to cross the border: Eva decides to stay in Los Angeles.
Families that live in between borders are placed in difficult situations. Often, children like adults, are the most that miss family members when they migrate to a new environment. In the film, Judith moves to Los Angeles with her husband and has the opportunity to say goodbye to her daughters in Guatemala. Judith has not returned to Guatemala in two years and says, “It was sad because of the little one. Back then this is what she looked like. She was too little to understand. She was breastfeeding. So, to make sure she’d be okay, and not get sick, a week before I left, I sacrificed not seeing her,” (Maid in America 00:09:46-00:10:07). Judith left her daughters in the hands of her aging mother and sister. However, she considers traveling back to Guatemala because of her mother, “Truth is, I was not planning to leave. But my mother is sick. She’s not doing well. And then, because of my daughters. They no longer want to be alone. They tell me, either send for us or come back home. Right now, all I can think about is what are things going to be like there,” (Maid in America 00:42:29-50). This is important because it shows how much Judith’s daughters are affected by their family separation. They felt lonely without their mother watching them grow during those two years. Judith decides to return to Guatemala with their newborn baby and reunite with her family again. Unfortunately, this choice means leaving her husband in the United States while she cares for their children in Guatemala. In the end, Judith dreams of returning to the United States someday.
Prado’s Maid in America is about the struggles and sacrifices of domestic workers. Eva’s accounting degree in Mexico was not valid in the U.S. But she does study hard to learn English and by the end of the film she is working as a seasonal tax accountant. Meanwhile, motherhood affects Judith’s daughters because they do not want to be separated from their mother. In addition, when times are rough, Judith and Eva are tempted to return to their motherlands. At the end of the day, everyone sacrifices significant things to overcome struggles that are faced in their motherland. In the tale of Prado’s domestic workers, the sacrifices they make for their families are not wasted and they fully understand that they must face trying times to ultimately give back to their communities and families.
Prado, Anayansi, director. Maid in America. Welcome to California State University - Northridge | Kanopy, 2005, csun.kanopy.com/video/maid-america.