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Sin Nombre

In: Social Issues

Submitted By asal2401
Words 860
Pages 4
Abby Salinas
Professor Ruiz
LAST 1020
18 February 2016
Fools Without Borders: A Conversation in Transnational Identity Politics
Sin Nombre confronts its viewers with more than the harsh realities of crime and violence in Latin America. Cary Fukunaga intertwines the lives of Sayra – a young Honduran immigrant looking to reach the United States – and Willy – a Mexican gangster whose cognitive understanding of community has shattered and turned into his worst nightmare. The result is a potent exposition of the effects of globalization on transnational interactions, community identity, and urban space. Paired with Zilberg’s ethnographic study of Maras and Marreros across borders, Sin Nombre suggests that forced trans-nationality and the associated evolution of multifaceted identity politics are propelling modern society away from an identification of individuals based on nationality (where they live) and instead by Benedict Anderson’s concept of imagined communities (who and what they live with). The characters presented in both the movie and Zilberg’s study represent threats to their respective social orders and are therefore confronted with a forced separation from their communities and homes. Willy (the gangster in Sin Nombre) threatened the hierarchical structure of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS) by killing his superior. His options were to attempt exile or to accept death. Weasel (a subject in Zilberg’s study), proved to hold a disregard for American laws by ending up in jail. In the eyes of the authorities in the USA, his legal status as a resident did not change the fact that he (and his cronies) made Los Angeles a more dangerous place. The problem for these characters, however, is not the loss of the physical space that they are accustomed to, but the loss of a social community. Benedict Anderson describes such a community as a cognitive artifact. In other words, it is a constructed reality that is given meaning and power by its members. It is important to note that ‘cognitive’ and ‘constructed’ do not mean that the community is ‘fake’ or ‘made up.’ While Anderson uses this concept to analyze nationalism, it can be applied to the gang and the city – communal institutions that foster a sense of comradeship and unity in members who have never physically interacted with each other. The nation, as understood by Westphalian borders, no longer holds a monopoly on the creation of individual identity. As transnational organizations – Non-Governmental Organizations, International Organizations, Multi-National Corporations, etc – continue to gain legitimacy in the form of social and political power, they are changing the ways that we, as humans living in a fragmented social system, organize ourselves. Zilberg argues “cultural identity does not correspond to, but is rather, excluded from national identity” (762). A member of the Red Cross may see himself primarily as such while disregarding his Bolivian citizenship. Smiley, the young MS recruit in Sin Nombre, is promised that no matter where he goes in the world, a fellow member of the MS community would be there to care for him. Sayra’s uncle tells her that it is in her best interest to take the trip to the United States with her family because, without them, there is nothing left for her in her hometown. Since borders hold less and less importance in identity, they are often crossed and disregarded, creating webs of transnational interaction. Increased global connections allow local actions to have effects of all levels in cities thousands of miles away. Sin Nombre exemplifies this idea through the immigrant’s journey. An increase in violence paired with a decline in viable economic opportunities in Central American nations encourages migration, both legal and illegal, to the United States. Once there, new immigrants change the distribution of urban space by creating cultural hubs such as Chinatown, Little Italy, or Little El Salvador. Zilberg describes the police corruption that is present in these neighborhoods characterized by high levels of crime and gang violence. Local police may take illegal actions in order to ensure that immigrant members of those communities are deported. In Zilberg’s article, the young men that are deported to El Salvador do not identify with the communities in their Salvadoran hometowns. They know little to nothing about El Salvador because they identify less so with their nation of birth and more so with the gang that they were members of in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, those groupings were often influenced by the urban distribution of L.A. and do not line up with the urban distribution of Salvadoran towns. This lack of continuity in community organization and interaction creates violence and fosters citizen insecurity. The various interactions with the idea of self-identity described in this paper (both physical and cognitive) open up a discussion revolving around the effects of globalization on community identity. Both Sin Nombre and Fools Banished From the Kingdom describe situations in which identity is intertwined with a community separate from national identity.

Works Cited
Sin Nombre. Dir. Cary Fukunaga. Perf. Paulina Gaitan and Marco Antonio Aguirre. Scio Films, 2009. DVD.
Zilberg, Elana. "Fools Banished from the Kingdom: Remapping Geographies of Gang Violence between the Americas (Los Angeles and San Salvador)." American Quarterly 56.3 (2004): 759-79.Project Muse. Web. 10 Feb. 2015.

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