On the Border

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Arturo Islas' "Migrant Souls" is a short story based on the life on a Mexican American Family living in Del Sapo, Texas. The children attend public schools and show signs of enculturation while the parents both encourage and resist the Americanization of their children. The family deals with the everyday pressures immigrants often face and maintain a sense of humor throughout every experience. In an effort to have a unique identity, the family struggles with the social, psychological, and cultural duality "living on the border" causes them to have.

The family in "Migrant Souls" is an example of the social effect racism has on a subculture. The first example of this is when Josie thinks about how her mother has sympathy for the families of "twenty-one Mexican males" who died in a boxcar on the way to a job. Josie believes her mother had compassion because "they were not from the poorest class." She knows her mother is making a reference that the men were not "wetbacks" and this elicits a response from Josie about the difference between her belief and her mother's belief regarding "who did and did not `deserve' to be in the United States." The difference between the mother and daughter is interesting. The mother, because of racism, obviously feels the need to separate herself from a lower class of immigrants. Josie, the daughter, feels a sense of connection within her ethnicity and doesn't believe socio-economic differences should decide if one is welcome in the US. Her conviction doesn't mean that she isn't confused by this difference. Josie wonders why her mother accepts the girls dressing up like Native Americans but yet looks down on a similar class within her own race. The little girl surmises that "Mexican Indians were too close to home and the truth" establishing the idea that Josie believes her mother must have something to be ashamed of. Within this passage shows the social affect of racism on a group. The mother is judgmental of other groups within her ethnicity, and the little girl does not understand why she would feel this way. Little textual support is given about what "home and the truth" means to Josie, but it could be her way of saying that there is not a difference between her family and the very people her mother looks down on.
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