Analysis Of The “La Migra” By Pat Mora
The undocumented-migrant journey across the border has become a site of intense violence, exploitation, and abuse for undocumented women. The legal status of these migrant women prevents them from reporting such crimes to the authorities due to fear. When crossing many migrant women are encountered with corrupt border patrols who illegally abuse their power, not knowing where their jurisdiction begins and ends.
In “La Migra” Pat Mora illustrates a dialogue of an unfortunate situation that woman encounter along the border. Mora describes these ongoing incidents using both the oppressors and the oppressed action, the power they hold figurative and literal, as well as their disadvantages and advantages. Mora uses free verse, rather than comply to the formal norms of writing a poem. In most formal poems poets use rhyme and meter, but rather Mora decided to split her free verse up into two specific stanzas giving the reader two perspectives, the Border Patrol and the Mexican Woman.
In addition, Mora hides the severity of abuse along the border by portraying it as if two children were playing, “Get Ready, get set, run” is normally used when playing a child like game. Ambiguity is heavily noted throughout as it can be interpreted in many forms, one of which is through the lens of children. Making it seem as innocent in a way when the Border Patrol states that he can touch her anywhere he wants. Children playing a childlike game is incorporated adding essential meaning to the poem due to the fact that it is a heavily adult themed topic as it talks about sexual assault. Children playing around the theme of an adult topic gives us a different perspective as they are being exposed to violence developing their notion of gender roles.
Mora uses antithesis to narrate two opposing sides, the oppressed being the Mexican woman and the oppressor being the border patrol. Mora creates a free verse of two stanzas between two speakers, a male and a female. This dialogue in particular talks about playing a game of role play between a Border Patrol and a Mexican maid or as the female prefers, Mexican woman. In stanza one, we see the Border Patrols view in which he is asserting and abusing his power, the Border Patrol believes he has the power to prevent the Mexican woman from crossing and will stop her by any means possible as he has stated, “I can touch you wherever I want but don’t complain too much because I’ve got boots and kick – if I have to, and I have handcuffs. Oh, and a gun.” The border patrol mentions his badge which symbolizes his authority of enforcing the immigration laws, his sunglasses means his capabilities to watch her in the desert under the blazing sun.
As well as his Jeep representing his ability to move fast to detain her, when he states that he has the authority to touch her wherever represents his abuse of power over the migrant women as she will not complain due to the fact that she is undocumented. Boots kicks and handcuffs are hard ended word sounds emphasizing the meaning of power in which he has legal protection from doing anything for those who do not comply. Just as he will do to the Mexican women if she complains when he touches her. As to the gun, symbolically it means his power and capability of shooting the Mexican women any time he desires if she does not comply. In stanza two, we see the female’s perspective in which she believes that his equipment will not compare to her knowledge along the border as she is very familiar with the desert strengthening her survival skills as she knows where to hide.
The Mexican woman knows where the agua dulce is and knows when the weather will change by the the way the wind blows. Reinforcing that the oppressed will always be stronger when faced with the oppressor. The use of imagery in this poem is immense as both explain things that give them a sense of power. By the description of the poem Mora helps use create a visual representation of what is going on. When the Border Patrol states, “I can touch you wherever I want but don’t complain too much because I’ve got boots and kick–if I have to, and I have handcuffs. Oh, and a gun.” one can visually see the Border patrol abusing the woman if she neglects to conform to his orders. In the second stanza the Mexican Woman states, “All you have is heavy: hat, glasses, badge, shoes, gun. I know this desert, where to rest, where to drink. Oh, I am not alone. You hear us singing and laughing with the wind.” One can see her escaping the Border Patrol as she is very familiar with the desert unlike him he does not know the desert without his supplies and will probably not survive.
The Mexican Woman also states that you can hear them sing and laugh with the wind portraying that she is not alone as the border patrol believes, she is accompanied with various other migrants who will unite together. Mora builds up the Mexican woman as strong and free representing her as a symbol of a larger group of people rather than a weak individual condescending the border patrol. In addition, towards the end the Mexican woman uses hybridity as she states, “Agua dulce brota aqui, aqui, aqui, but since you can’t speak Spanish, you do not understand.” As he is unable to understand her due to his ignorance she has an advantage implying that at the end of the section the Mexican Woman is more powerful compared to the Border Patrol and his equipment.
In conclusion, Pat Mora displays two points of views with two very distinct tones using free verse. In section one the border patrol comes off as cruel and abusive compared to the second section in which the Mexican woman is very rebellious. Although, both are very distinct the entire poem serves as a metaphor and a euphemism as it is portrayed as a child like game representing the overall message of the adversities that women are encountered with when crossing the border. In addition, the main symbols used in this poem are about authority and dominance such as the badge, handcuffs, boots, and gun. However, the control is switched in the second part in which the “Mexican Maid” takes back her control and establishes her name as as Mexican woman as there are stereotypes towards Mexican woman being maids. As you can see, the undocumented-migrant journey across the border has become a site of intense violence, exploitation, and abuse for undocumented women. In “La Migra” Mora establishes this horrific reality be explaining both the oppressors and the oppressed action, the power they hold figurative and literal, as well as their disadvantages and advantages. But at the end of everything the oppressed will always have the power at the end just as the Mexican woman did.
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