Under the Feet of Jesus Research Paper

Essay by YonoseCollege, UndergraduateB, June 2013

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In Helena Maria Viramontes', Under the Feet of Jesus, historical factors play an integral role in depicting life as a migrant laborer. Capitalism, colonialism, racism, and worker exploitation are a few of the forces that mediate the political, social, and cultural conditions of the Mexican Immigrant labor. In Under the Feet of Jesus, those conditions are portrayed through the struggles of Estrella and her migrant family.

The effects of Colonialism are vividly displayed throughout Viramontes' novel. Just as the indigenous tribes of Mexico were marginalized by the Spanish, Estrella and the rest of the field laborers were being marginalized by America. After the Great Depression struck, millions of Americans were left unemployed with no source of income to sustain themselves, or their family. Politically and socially, Mexican laborers were targeted as the problem and they began to be viewed as the foreign invaders, the non-Americans whom were taking American jobs from American people.

Due to the pressures of unemployment the United States government began the process of repatriation. Repatriation resulted in thousands of field workers being deported, among those US born Mexicans. Throughout the novel, Estrella expresses her fear of being sent back home to her native country. Estrella's fears of being harassed and deported also point to her racialized status. The fact that she is a US born Mexican-American should comfort her, but it does not. Because of the language she speaks, the food that she eats, and the color of her skin Estrella is racialized into being an illegal "alien". Her fears are demonstrated when her mother, Petra says:

If they stop you, if they try to pull you into the green vans, you tell them the birth certificates are under the feet of Jesus, just tell them . . . Tell them que...