Cuando la Tierra Tiembla

Glòria Martí


Cuando la tierra tiembla is an interesting visual document of exile, migration and displacement. It focuses on the Mexico-USA border (although it could be any other border) and shows the human drama involved in the constant displacement of Mexicans from their native country to the one to the North. The thematic axis of the video is the situation of the Mexican community in New York City. Using images and testimonies both from the emigrants themselves and from people who belong to associations working for the ‘illegals’, Martí evidences with her camera the situation to both sides of the border.

Cuando la tierra tiembla shows the paradox that Peter Andreas, professor of political science and international relations and an expert in the area, talks about in the video, that is, how both a perfectly sealed and armoured border and a borderless economy are being constructed simultaneously.

To the North of the border the video shows us the new cities. In the 1990s the Mexican population was the ethnic minority that most increased in number in New York City, and the amount of Mexicans accounted for by the US census tripled in the same decade. According to unofficial estimates, the number reaches one million in the tri-state area. The Mexican population constitutes the third largest Hispanic group in New York after the Puerto Ricans and the Dominicans. Most of the Mexicans come from rural communities of the state of Puebla, and work mainly in the catering industry: as cooks, food handlers, and busboys or cleaners in the restaurants. “... All our sowers are washing dishes in New York”, says Carmelo Macedo of the Casa de Puebla in Manhattan. Mexicans in New York are discriminated against in relation to other communities living there. This might be because of their lower level of education or their generalised poor command of English. Be it as it may, the truth is that they are, out of all the ‘illegal’ groups, the most exploited one in labour terms, and the worst paid.

After having shown us this reality, Martí’s camera takes us to ‘The other side’ of the costly wall that now replaces the old wire fence that once separated the USA from Mexico. We are now witness to how life is in the places where the ‘mojados’ (wet) come from, to the absence of those who had to emigrate in the search for survival. The testimonies of relatives who stayed in Mexico tell us about the pain of the separation from their loved ones and about how their own survival depends on those who left: without the money (‘remesas’/‘consignments’) that the latter send them from the USA, they wouldn’t be able to survive. Some of the facts that we learn are amazing; for example, that the second source of revenue coming in to Mexico, after oil, is that constituted by the ‘remesas’. This is thus not only a complex human problem, but a new type of circulation of capital which escapes the control of governments.

In the words of Martí herself: “This is the story of a lot of people with a common place. The place of the non-place, the constructed place. The space that is generated between borders, the space that there is between being legal and being illegal, between different economic realities. This story is repeated in any place in the planet where there is a migrant, a refugee, an exile. And although each of these keeps their own part of the story, their own experience, this one in particular, takes place in New York. Its main characters: mainly Mexican immigrants, the so-called ‘mojados’ (wet), ‘alambrados’ (wire fenced), or more commonly ‘ilegales’ (illegals) who share a common experience.

Technical datasheet

  • Title: Cuando la Tierra Tiembla
  • Direction: Glòria Martí
  • Production: Glòria Martí. 2006.
  • Team:

    Music: Julio Revilla

  • Duration: 00:44:46
  • Languages: Spanish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Original format: DV-Cam
  • Formats: Betacam Digital - DVD
  • TV systems: PAL
  • License: Copyright