The film A Day without a Mexican directed by Sergio Arau and released in 2004 represents a satiric view of the state California without the Mexican population in it, touching upon rather serious philosophical and anthropological issues of relationships of various ethnical groups in a multi-national society. The development of the plot lines of the movie which shows the chaos in the community after one ethnical group as one of its integral elements has disappeared can be explained with the theoretical principles of structural functionalism. The structural functionalism is a broad anthropological view on the society as a set of interrelated components. The elements of the society include customs, traditions, norms and beliefs as well as institutions and social groups. Herbert Spencer as one of the proponents of this approach compared the whole society to a human body and its elements to the organs of this body which are interconnected and disease and especially amputation of one of them will have a significant impact on the state of the whole organism.
The main goal of the author of the scenario was to show the changes in citizens’ attitude towards Mexicans after they disappeared. The disappearance of the 13 million of Mexicans, including both immigrants and US citizens, divided the plot into two parts: before and after disappearance. The first episodes of the film show the disrespectful attitude of Americans to Latinos. The senator does not want a Mexican woman to work as a nanny at his house, being afraid of his reputation. When a Mexican man saves life of an American boy, killing a serpent, the boy’s father does not want even to express his gratitude even realizing that his child’s life was at stake, the man refuses to say thanks in Mexican. Though the author’s idea of disappearance of the whole ethnic group sounds unrealistic, this approach was effective for contrasting the people’s relations before and after Mexicans disappeared and returned to California for developing the ideas of structural functionalism theories. Showing the changes and chaos in the society after the mysterious disappearance of people, the author points at the significant role which Mexicans play in the community.
It is important that despite the widely spread misconceptions, not all the disappeared Mexicans were serving men or worked on physical labor jobs. Among the Mexican characters there was a singer, TV reporters and even a candidate for a position of a governor. It seems that before their disappearance people did not notice that Latinos played such an important role in the life of the society. It is interesting that the disappearance is shown as a gradual process, the scenes in which Mexicans disappear one by one, leaving the working machines were terrifying. Along with the development of the cross-cultural plot line, the author sheds light upon various socio-cultural processes in the society, showing the reaction of different people to the mysterious disappearance of Mexicans. The people demonstrate their inner self, reacting to the event.
Some of them try to take advantage of the situation. The senator incorporates the Mexican issue into his pre-election program. The author’s irony is expressed in the assertion of one of the characters that the anti-immigrant campaign helped him to become a senator and the incidence with the disappeared Mexicans could help him to become a governor. Comics used the event in their jokes, and one of them admitted that he wants his wife’s mother were a Mexican and disappeared.
The advertisers used the issue for their purposes, using the theme of disappearance of Mexicans for their discounting program, admitting that their goods disappear like animals because of their low prices. The disappearance of the ethnic group was a noticeable event which had impact on all the spheres of life of California citizens, including those of politics, television and advertising industry, not to mention the personal lives of those who lost their close friends and members of their families. Though there were a wide range of explanations for the mysterious disappearance, the author does not support either of them, focusing on the outcome of the event instead of its reasons. The versions of the reasons of disappearance ranging from religious motives to genetics engineering demonstrate the current level of the development of the society and various movements in it.
Thus, while some of the visitors under the window of Lila, the only Mexican girl who remained in whole California, sang songs, naming her saint, others threatened and damned her. Making the come back of the Mexicans as mysterious and unexpected as their disappearance, the author emphasizes the importance of the structural changes in the society caused by the lack of an only element instead of developing some of the versions. The principles of structural functionalism are helpful for explaining the main plot lines in the film A Day without a Mexican directed by Sergio Arau. The disappearance of one ethnic group resulted in immense changes and echoed in all spheres of life of the community.
A Day without a Mexican.
Dir. Sergio Arau. Perf. Sergio Arau, Yarelli Arizmendi, Sergio Guerrero. Altavista Films, 2004.
Film. A screen shot of the opening scene of the movie