Friday, November 25, 2005

The New Pilgrims

While we are on the subject of being thankful, it's worth including thankfulness for being born a U.S. citizen, even though sometimes I may express discontent with our policies abroad. Certainly, those who are not born U.S. citizens must often complete a dangerous journey to reach American soil.

The Mexican consulate still archives the notorious official pamphlet, Guide for the Mexican Migrant, that acknowledges the dangers of unscrupulous coyotes, drowning, dehydration, and suffocation for those making the voyage. It's hard to believe that this little book caused so much consternation among U.S. lawmakers and pundits, given its scoutmaster-style prose and emphasis on law-abiding behavior, as non-Spanish-speakers can see in this translation of the text on an anti-immigration website.

1.5 million copies of the handbook were distributed in paper form. Now the Mexican government has a neutral "for more information" page that directs visitors to the proper consular authorities.



Blogger Julia Lupton said...

I checked out the booklet and was also struck by the traditional, "scout" character of the graphics. Isn't this what Scouting was supposed to train people for -- real-life situations of deprivation and crisis?

7:21 AM  
Blogger Vivian Folkenflik said...

What Scouting was supposed to do evolved over time. Lord Baden-Powell, the founder and original rhetorician of the Boy Scouts, was trying to train boys to join the cavalry, and his wildly successful rhetoric was based on military exercises for British training troops for victory in the "Boer" South African war. That 1908 rhetoric created deprivation for some, although it may have been crisis-solving for others. My daughter was a Brownie Guide in London l973-74, and I was startled to trace both the evolution and the persistence of his rhetoric.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Julia Lupton said...

In relation to the archaeology of scouting: I am struck by how familiar institutions (be it a social group like the scouts or holidays) often have strange and distinctive points of origins that get sloughed off by the sheer pressures of adaptation to new climate and transmission to new generations. Remembering these origins can be revelatory, calling our attention to certain traits or quirks in the contemporary avatar.

10:06 AM  

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