tv Alfredo Corchado Homelands CSPAN August 5, 2018 8:00am-9:01am EDT
path that these two gentlemen took and how theycame back together toward the end of crtheir life . i look forward to reading that and getting more of the back story's book tv wants to know what you are reading. send us your summer reading list on twitter, instagram or facebook. book tv on c-span2: television for serious readers. >> .. from the school of journalism at columbia. for his courage, sorry, for his coverage of drug trafficking in incumbent corruption along the board he received the lovejoy
award for courage in journalism. he was a visiting fellow at the institute of politics here at the university of chicago. during that time he met michelle shim who beat the interlocutor this evening. michelle is a student at the university. please join me in welcoming our guests. [applause] >> thank you. before we get started to ask for huge favor michelle said she might ask me to read and i don't have a book. >> of course. >> great, thank you. it's great to be back at university of chicago and especially at iop. thank you for everything you did in getting the word out. >> michelle was of the head of the ambassador program when i i was here about a year ago. >> your team. basically the entire program. you with the best obviously.
thank you for the introduction. i'm a less decorative than you i'm afraid but hopefully this of the a great discussion. alfredo, like you like to say, you're a journalist first, updaters on what's going on on the border. >> i'm supposed to be back in el paso as we speak. it's a changing story. it keeps changing every other hour. i'm talking about the separation of families. my job is to cover the u.s.-mexico border and cover mexico. when we did, we began to plan the book tour, i knew i would get back to mexico this week because we update presidential elections on sunday, and it's going to have i think huge ramifications on both sides of the country. the last few weeks have been overtaken by the situation with
families separated, and el paso has been a pivotal moment in our time. so i get a call this afternoon from one of my editors who said that we have a reporter heading to el paso. there was talk about using the military place as soon as possible, and we don't know, i don't know what that means, plus the airfield in new mexico. i haven't had time to confirm either one, but i know they are on deadlines and that's one reason i need to get out tomorrow morning but i'm also going to be reporting on that. i should just give you a quick sort of anecdote. i think a good it is very pivotal moment. people talk about the #me too movement, the parkland, with the
outpouring of support that happened in the last few months. i think it was a very, very important moment. i think we will see that as we go on. 24 hours, the meeting was sunday ago from last week 24 hours earlier the congressman from el paso put out a tweet and said that there was a call to action, let's meet at because ten cities were going up. i wasn't sure what to expect. this is father's day weekend. it's also the world cup. mexico is playing germany, and i have to tell you it was a sea of cars and the sea of people. people from not just text, , not just was texas but people really throughout the southwest ended up showing. it was this outpouring, genuine
support that think for people who live on the border for the moment they felt like we're not alone anymore. that i think is been a really important as we continue to go forward. i know in the last few days a lot of politicians continue to descend on the town. but when i was there it was something like 200 miners or children were there. now there's talk about 2000, 4000 in the coming days, the coming weeks. i think the story will get bigger and bigger. i'm trying to remind my editors that the election coming up is almost as important as what's happening now. it's like you're the border, u.s. and mexico correspondent and you're trying to find the right balance between the two. that's a long, long answer. >> thank you.
i think might as well to start off with you reading from your book. >> you have a special section? >> you want to do my favorite section? >> sure. >> i'd love to hear on chapter 24 on page 235 starting with do the right thing. i think that was a particularly moving passage. to give a little bit of context, alfredo is mother, she struggled a lot with deciding whether or not the sacrifice was worth it for his family to uproot themselves and tried to find a new home in a country that wasn't particularly welcoming to them, to say in the most nicest terms. later when they returned alfredo asked was it worth it?
>> every year we take my parents back to mexico for day of the dead, and it's a way to pay homage to those who have departed. this trip takes part about ten days before the elections in the united states. november 2016. or late october 2016. so we are driving, it's about a 99 hour drive from el paso and as we get closer and closer my mother is getting more and more quiet and i'm thinking maybe it's because chapo guzman has been moved from central mexico to the border, and whenever any time chabot at least in mexico, captures and then escapes the content the escapes there's this power vacuum. it says a lot about the kind of
control he has over mexico and over certain parts come certain regions of mexico. chapo was born not far from where i was born, and when i left as a six-year-old. so we're getting closer. my mom is looking at the sun, worried it would be sunset and that we might have to deal with the chapel people. at least that's what i'm thinking. i keep telling my mom we're going to be fine. the sun goes down a little late. the time had not changed but then out of the clear blue she says, i don't know that we make the right secretary price, the right decision. this is leading up to the campaign when mexicans sort of become the bully of then candidate donald trump. did we do the right thing, my mother asks, as she looked at the road ahead of us.
to sacrifice everything that we knew, was it really worth it? we were near our hometown not just over the hills, now just over the hills. it was an old mining town that was original influenced by spaniards, french and even a few swedes during the mining boom of the late 1800s and early 1900s. locals remainder survived by ranging and raising corn and cattle. i could see glimpses of the light of tiny homes with fresh coat of paint, pastel colors, some signs of life but still ghost towns. kids ran unpaved streets starting here and there. donkeys strayed. some giggled, new houses were under construction, homes ordered built by immigrants who are left years ago and now as
age crept up on them, wanted to return. this time they seem serious. thanks that north didn't look so promising anymore. they love you when you're young, my mother said, healthy with a strong back to pick the crops. take care of the elderly and their children. now they were aging, some more than others. growing restless and skipped se so-called nation of immigrants. more homes were under construction. in the distance roosters crow. we crossed the creek that at one point had been a lush river, she said. that was before the drought took it all away. all they had before all the talk about rule of law come back when mexico seem to have played for economic development to create jobs and not depend so much on its fickle neighbor up north. we passed cattle, cornfields.
just across the creek my mother said, a ranch my father owned turkey raised cattle there. fig trees lined the area. corn from our field roasted in the afternoon. mines surrounding us. location raindrops fell. we still have a picture of my uncle holding onto his tiny nephews. i'm in the picture, in the middle by that creek. what my father picked cotton in texas and sent money every two weeks like clockwork. in hindsight, everything seemed great i told my mother. it was, she said, it really was, without a doubt. i gave her a benefit of the doubt. >> i think that segues into the question you explore the idea of the american dream versus the mexican dream. your friends debate a lot about throughout the book.
they have very strong opinions and, for example, david, one of his friends, believed he could have made anywhere and its willpower what really drives in and his success. could you go a little deeper into the idea of the american dream, the mexican dream, is the idea that opportunities in america abound for people whomever may seek it, who may seek those opportunities, is that true today, do you think? >> first, let me tell you just a bit about my friends. one is stubborn, a restaurant owner, he owns his own tequila, another one is primo rodriguez oceguera was a human rights activist. by the way he just moved back, moved a few years ago back to mexico city. and the third one is a lawyer
out of university of penn who ran for mayor in philadelphia, and dropped out of the race after they found that his mother had cancer. so those were the debates, the mexican dream. as you lived in philadelphia and at a time when we thought we were the only mexicans, it was easy to feel like you're really driven by nostalgia. it's like we could do so much better there. we didn't have to leave. i'm very much influenced by my own mother. my mother did not want to leave mexico. my mother wanted to stay mexico, and my mother i think to this day still wondered whether we could have done better. so when i went back to mexico in the early 1990s, i went with david. if i can make it any as i can
make mexico myself and you end up covering the drug trafficking or pick you end up seeing sort of almost like a mask of your homeland. you see someone hundreds of people, , hundreds of thousandsf people dead. to this day more than 200,000 have been killed threat mexico. rule of law is still very weak. 95% of people killed, cases are never solved. so it's easy to walk around where i live in mexico city and say yes, i believe in the mexican dream, and i do. i see parts of mexico that just melt me away and that just want, i mean, i want to stay there. i want to live there. but also a realist, and when my mom questions whether or not we did the right thing, i said maybe i could invent a merchant, but it probably would've ended up paying extortion are being
afraid of being kidnapped. and so it's a constant debate. do you believe in the mexican dream, do you believe in the american dream? i believe in the american dream because been great for me. i mean, i wouldn't be sitting here with you. i'm a high school dropout. i wouldn't be sitting here with you have my mom not made that sacrifice, not had that courage to leave it all behind and to seek something better. >> right. building off of that, you say immigration runs deep in the blood of just about every mexican it was part of the heritage, their dna. can you expand on that idea of immigration being in your blood and in your heritage, and whether that immigration is a type of resilience? >> i think it's been there for the longest time but i had to chile, we just did a poll in mexico for the dallas morning news, and we went to some of the
key states, and some remarkable numbers we found out, where i think half the people we interviewed said they would like to leave for the united states, which is a number that really shifted from, say, six, seven years ago when the vast majority people said they wanted to go. it's not that they are happy with nafta. you might have critics and the united states say it's been great for mexico. and they've been great for mexico to think most mexican steel their wages have changed. they still make the same wages, but i think there is a sense that we have more options than we did. it's much, much more dangerous to cross the border. and three, we are not welcome when we cross the border and where living and the united states. i think the united states, i think we reached a point in the united states when people, employers especially, are
missing mexicans. so that way of life that was there when i was a kid is changing drastically. i spoke to students in my hometown, and one of the questions i asked was, not many people raised their hands. whereas in the past would affect everybody raise their hands. before my generation, my father was a member of a little band that he had back in, five or six members, they all left because it all became -- that's not happen anymore. traveling, places like wisconsin or minneapolis or iowa, denver, you get more and more people asking you, where are the mexicans? why are they not coming? and i think that's going to become more and more of a
pronounced feeling, especially texas. i mean, texas, you had hurricanes. whenever i'm in texas, there is a big worry about labor shortages that are already happening, or small-town america. it's really been a mexicans who over the years have really revived small towns america. that's also i think at stake right now. >> speaking of texas, you are a border corresponded, could you say -- >> at times, at times. >> could you say a little bit about the difference between emotional distance and physical distance from your homeland? because i think, for example, speeded it depends on how much tequila you are having. >> for me, homeland is very far away. continents away, south korea. for you it's some obscure line. >> it's not an obscure line. i mean, carlos described as a
scar and it is a wound. that line is a wound. there are times when that wound is much, much deeper, like today. i mean, you're on that border and you just feel it from both sides. and sometimes it's a nice little scarf that you can just had or put a little powder on top of it and you're fine, but there are times when it's burning, and that's the way it is right now. yes, south korea or, i mean, when you have oceans apart it helps out, but when that line is right there, i mean, it shatters you. whether or not it's a ten-foot fence or 20-foot fence or 30-foot fence, it's there.
i think there is a difference, especially in these divisive times that we live in. >> great. and you talk deeply about ken, one of your friends, a speedy he was the guy i wanted to emulate. perfect teeth, fashion sense. he helped me by my first suit. >> you talk about the kind of low self-esteem that you have to deal with and the kind of posture center, neufeld at street journal walking streets of philadelphia. and that feeling of disincentives to feeling when you move when you move closer to the border. if you talk a little bit more
about what was key in overcoming those, and what advice would give for young people trying to overcome a similar sense of not belonging wherever they are? >> i was recruited by the "wall street journal," first job out of college, and i think maybe probably would say today, what is wrong with you, are you crazy? because i kept saying no. i was working for the el paso herald post covering what i thought at the time was a bigger story of my life which was the democracy movement in northern chihuahua in. frank allen, the bureau chief, approaches and i think in may. i say i would be interested. all my teachers and franchising get up and leave. june comes along. july comes along. september the frank to his credit kept on me and he finally
comes to el paso and he thought it's a hispanic family. i think they feel may be that they don't want this family separation. so frank shows up. it's right before thanksgiving. my mother, i remember that frank brought a bottle of wine and we did know what to do with wine. my mother had enchiladas and so forth, and at the end of dinner frank says i know it's hard for you to let your senko, but he is the oldest. and i think you would agree that this is an important time for him to go and maybe set the example for other siblings. i'm a mother said no, no, no. give him away. take them away. the only thing is i would like for him to spend christmas here. so we did, but i couldn't understand why frank would want me. when he hired and he said, this
country is looking more and more like the border, and we need people like you. we need more diversity. we need hispanic. we need more women. we need more african-americans to come in and take these jobs and be a voice for others. i didn't understand what that meant. but i think it was really through covering stories like immigration reform act in 1986, and many, many years later, even that when covering stuff i always think of frank and i think this is what he meant. it was really when i started covering these stories that i felt like i belong. i feel like, i saw frank's vision. i think his vision was many, many, he was ahead of mine certainly but also of a lot of
people. i i think you saw something thai didn't see. so i would tell young people, especially if you live on the border, i would tell people if you live on the border take offense at the laboratory that is there and take advantage of being by national, by culture, able to go back and forth and learn spanish, or another language. that's something that, i mean, it's incredibly key. i mean this, not that, i didn't want frank to pigeonhole me. and i would tell him and get i wanted to be pigeonholed because these were the only stories i really cared about. but i wanted to make sure he knew i could do other stories. i mean, i was a kid. what's the worst thing that can happen works fine, aye end up working at walmart or go backwards in the field. but it think it was important that frank knew i wanted to do other stories but that my passion fruit drink stories
about immigration, stories with mexico. actually how it ended up for the first time covering stories out of chicago, because of amnesty and because of these issues. >> speaking of stories, in the beginning of the book when you decide to uproot yourself and relocate to philadelphia, you say you were there by telling her father story, our story. in this day and age what power does the art of storytelling hold, and is that a disintegrating fading art or do think it's become stronger just in different forms? >> i think storytelling is just as important as it was back then. we are trying to figure out how to tell that story. but, i mean, look, i come from a bureau come with 13 people in mexico city at one point. we are down to one, and that's me and i'm in chicago right now. so i mean obviously the
economics, the industry has changed dramatically. but whether you agree with president trump on this positive family separation, whether that's a yes or a no doesn't matter. i think he dehumanized these too is completely go out and tell these stories, you do it because you want to believe that by humanizing these issues people have more context and will be able to hopefully react. i mean, whatever they want but you want people to react. so i believe in storytelling. that's not going to go away. i'm taking a lot more pictures. i'm taking a lot more video, doing everything. i am doing audio. i suck at it but i'm doing it, you know? because i want to be relevant. >> it's funny i think, to me at least, because i have an opinion
that journalistic storytelling and the storytelling you do as an author can sometimes be a little different. i'd like you to talk a little bit about the difference between truthful storytelling in terms of accuracy and getting the facts right, and genuine storytelling where you are conveying a certain emotion or experience. >> you mean like writing a book? >> yes. >> i mean, writing the book, i think you combine both forces. journalistically, i know that being born in mexico, having your first memories in mexico will always raise all kinds of alarm bells. if you are the reader and you believe a certain way and you say how can this person be writing about this when he's obviously biased?
i was so happy the last week that rachel maddow cried, you know? and i thought if i had cried, it's like of course, he's hispanic, he's an immigrant. so i'm aware of that and they think again, going back to frank allen, he would always challenge me in that sense. got to get the facts. you have to, i mean, everything has to be accurate because you can be called to task. that's something that's been really, really ingrained in me to the point where you write a book, you are forced to get off the sidelines and you are forced to also deal with your own emotions. this is my second book and i've got to tell you, in both books there's a lot of music. i mean, just to give you a sense
of the kind of research that i do before this book, four people, we didn't have social media. there was no fake book, no twitter anything like that -- facebook. a lot of visual memory but also you have letters. my mother, for some reason, kept my notepads since the day i worked at the examiner as an intern, then later the work of the "wall street journal" but she had this plastic containers with all my notepads. i have letters from friends. when we were trying to figure out the opening scene of the book, i asked everyone come what do you remember about that? and all said -- a song, a very popular song. when i put this all come they were like yeah. remember we did this and did that? as part of the arrangement or agreement made with them, you
will read everything i said, everything i wrote for accuracy, not to censor. so there was a lot of back and forth, a lot of back and forth between us. but my editor, who also work with other journalists, the problem with you guys is you keep so much to yourself. so my job as an editor is to push you and push you and push you. and i don't care if it takes tequila. whatever it takes but you have to tell me how you feel. i still have a hard time with that, because of my training as a journalist. but i also know, for example, i think the hardest part for me to write was easily was chapter 24, and its discovering how my own grandfather had died. he basically burned to death.
and hearing how, i mean, i asked my mom some of the toughest questions. i i mean, it wasn't easy for her but it was reliving things that happen so many years ago, including the song that they played when they were, during the wake. was either? no. i was taking her memory but it was also take in the emotion of that moment. was it 110% factual? maybe not but, i mean, it was as close to the truth that i could get and it was also getting as much as they could to the emotional feeling of that moment. i decided, for example, in this book not to use quotes because when we would meet -- [speaking spanish] i think i said it this way or that way, and when i talk to anton, by the way he is a hell
of an editor but he said why do you want quotes? i mean, i know during the latter part of the book you interview everybody. you have all these quotes but i think it distracts the reader. just go with the way, the best way you remember it in the way that all of you remember it. and i think, i think that's the best or that's the closest to the truth that you're going to get. >> i want to make sure we have time to open up for q&a, but just one last question. kind of -- >> by the way, when i saw michelle i knew she would be really, really prepared. an incredible job. >> the title of your book, "homelands," is it something that everyone has and is it something everyone has to actively dig to find decades of conversation like you and her three friends? or is it, you know, something
that may becoming more easily? is it something that is resistant to we were trying to call our homelands back? >> censor talk about truth and everything else, i'm going to be truthful. i'm going to tell you the honest truth. the original title of the book was shadows at dawn. and i come it was something i thought about me many years ago. after midnight in mexico i thought i want to write a book about the dawn. enough about midnight. i was here in in fact, come in fact, we did a talk about shadows of the dawn. the day after the election, anton and i talked and he said, and i got some news for you. there's no dawn, there is no darkness. the target is on you. he said all the targets are out there and they are on you, and
you can't walk away from that. you are going have to own it. so what does that mean? it means we have to change the title. i didn't want to get overly stressed about it because i still have a lot to write. this is a time when i asked him, the book was due in march and i said, hey, anton, can i have maybe nine more months? so i knew i was asking for too much of a started arguing about the title. just relax, , keep writing and we'll figure that out. in the summer of 2017 he calls up and says, what do you think of the title "homelands"? i did not hear the s s but i desert homeland. are you kidding me? i said no, it's not going to
work. if you want to in the contract i'm fine, i don't care. but he said slow down. it's "homelands." and when that sunk in, the idea that it's not just about a melting pot, that it's really about embracing who you are and who you have been, and in many ways who you continue to be. and when that set in, i was like, you're damn right, you know? i'm very comfortable with embracing the american part of me. and i said, i'm much, much more american than mexican. a much more mixing when i'm in the trend. among the border i will have to choose anymore. i mean, i'm there. so that title, it did take me -- didn't take me long to embrace it and warm up to it, because again, it's a sense that
identity is such a moving target, but i think my feeling like a and part of a homeland, it just made me much, much more comfortable with it. does that make sense? >> there are people who -- >> how do you feel? you have ties to south korea. do you feel like you have homelands? >> i guess i'm curious about the idea of how forgiving our homelands are when people begin to push them away? and whether homelands will return. if you decide further down the line i lost something and you tried to call it back, how forgiving are your homelands? was a run back you with open arms or something you have to trackback from your own memory? >> i have to feel like it is unrequited love, that you are
always seeking the love and affection and respect from one. anytime you feel like you have it, you turn around and you seek the same from the last one. lately, it hasn't been very nice. so yeah, i mean, it's how forgiving, i mean, i don't know if it happens to you but when i went back in mexico i have to reassert my mexican this. i have a role, so you're constantly being tested. the interesting thing is i hear more and more english when i'm in mexico. it's not just the fancy mexicans, the elite mexicans who can shop anywhere they want, but because of deportations that are now small communities building in mexico city, in guadalajara that are made up of people left
the united states ten, 30, 35 years and they don't speak much spanish. it's a really interesting phenomena. i was supposed to cover that story before the election but i will wait until next week. it's really interesting thing. when i talked to them about homeland, they totally get it. >> your homelands love you. >> unbridled love. >> i've taken too much time. any questions? please. >> maria has a question. >> why is there so little recognition here in the united states that the demand for drugs, cocaine and meth destabilize i sent corrupts countries like the south american country? >> that's a great question. i don't know. i tried to insert that the life for that sentence or that paragraph in every story i write. because when people, when i went
back to write these stories last week, i went back to a story i wrote in 2014 that goes into long detail about why they are leaving. and i think, i'm not defending my colleagues but i wish that we make sure that that sentence, that paragraph, it's almost like a mandatory thing in every way rewrite. as i said, it's the country that's been through much, much turmoil, with a 200,000 have been killed. but when you're in central america, when i'm in honduras it really fails in comparison. the situation you see there. you go into these neighborhoods and you are escorted by gang members. i think the last time we were in
tabasco, no? looking at the flight central americans moving -- when i got there, the beef ended but it's not like this happy time, let's go to the united states for opportunities. it's not that situation. so much more complex, but the important thing is so much of the reasons are tied to the united states. it's the central americans, the remnants of the central american war but also the continuous demand for drugs that, south america to have to go to central america, it's so intertwined. >> when you write, because everybody forcing the everybody is so polarized, you must be conscious of that when you are writing. has a a change of writing or n?
what you do? >> i don't know if it changed my writing. i think it's changed the editors. which i really, i'm open to it and i applaud them. because i think i want them to make sure that they feel i'm being, not only accurate, and we use this term so loosely, i don't know if it means anything anymore but we are balanced and we are fair. i will go out of my way, as an immigrant i really curious as to why they may like your margarita, they may like your enchiladas, they may like your tortillas and your chips, your salsa but they don't really like you. i'm curious, and that's one of the things i did with this book was trying to travel to some of these regions and understand that. but in getting away from the
question. it's really i think the editing process has changed more, whether there's a lot more scrutiny -- where there is a lot more scrutiny while we went all out to make sure to get both sides and try to make sure it's fact, fact, fact. i mean, i can't think of another time when you make one little mistake and there are, there are mistakes can we all make mistakes, but they are magnified so much and they just feed into this, you know, feeding frenzy, whole fake news thing. i'm always thinking of that. you have to do everything you can to avoid that. >> after we heard the propublica piece, and i'm curious if there are a number of children and
that also adults who are being separated and also it seems there is this control over how those stories are photos are released. how are reporters, what is the access like and it is going to tighten even more to hear or get those stories from the inside? >> that audio was leaked by someone inside. she has really good sources. people like ginger, others who travel the border, straddles the border, those are people with the most access, thanks to the sources who they have known for many, many years. i mean, i've been through tent city three times. i will probably be there on wednesday again. it's tight. they are not letting people in. there was talk in my people in today. i don't know if they did because i've not been watching the news
or been on twitter. i'm just, i mean, it's not so much they're hiding something but i think you have a president who really understands media, and maybe it's an image that he doesn't want out there. but when we saw the tent city from up high, i remember being there and i'm there just a few yards and all i can see is one. okay, this is one. but when you see from up, it becomes the image and obviously it's not something that president trump wants. so i think for now they are being extremely careful. i know that the mayors tried going to last week. i think that o'rourke was able to get in yesterday at the media is still handsaw. and when they do allow come again, maybe they did but i didn't watch. i know that one of the rules was you can't take pictures.
you can't use selfie breakages going to go in and come out. and if you want video, if you want pictures, it will be government issued. yes? >> do you find that what the "wall street journal" covers an outlet covers it has changed with the new dish ownership? and, second question is, so the first question was a broad question about does the paper -- but you personally come has to been any change in how you cover what you are allowed to cover, how much, how many inches you get in a month, that kind of thing? >> usually it's not the case paperwork but usually you work for a newspaper editorial boards are more conservative, and that's the case of the "wall
street journal." i mean, what i was at the "wall street journal" many, many years ago, there's no comparison, but i will say one trend continues. i think a lot of reporters who i know at the "wall street journal" are probably some of the most liberal people i know. and as a reporter, in many ways that's just kind of normal. but on the editorial side, it's a whole different ballgame. i've been watching the journal, especially after the new owner came up, and i think there were some changes in the coverage. yet something has happened the last few weeks. i have a guess, an idea, but it's not really fully founded and i don't want to spread anything, especially the camera
lights here. but i think, you know, i think there is some internal dynamics that are taking place. i will say something, and it's not, yes, it is, i am lobbying everybody to subscribe, what is the "chicago tribune," whether it's the "wall street journal" or anyone, people have to subscribe. the dallas morning news. >> so i had to run out for a minute so maybe somebody asked this question but what you think is going to happen in the presidential election in mexico? and what impact is unlikely to have on the situation on the border? >> i think the last report we did about two weeks ago with pro forma and mexico city, we had over door at 52% picked the
nearest one was 26. i don't think the outcome on sunday will be that wide. i think it's going to close in. how far i'm not sure but i don't think, at least i don't see another takeover. i think, i think we will know sunday night through one. -- who won. the challenge is it's a six-year term, over door. even though he said will figure it out but it is a six-year term. if trump gets reelected come you're looking six-year term for the u.s. side. i don't think that obrador will be as nice or as patient as tina netto. i don't see invitation going out
to others, yet i don't see obrador looking for a fight with the united states, because i mean, they are so intertwined, so integrated economically that, i mean, it's $500 hundred billion dollars going back and forth, 5 million jobs in the united states. i was surprised when obrador opened his campaign, one of the things he said, he pointed to the united states and he said, we will not be your piñata anymore. and i can see if suddenly things don't go well for obrador, especially the beginning. the first, second you, things don't go as nice as you think. maybe after the honeymoon fades. i think the concern is if there's a nationalistic move that he taps into, i think so far the mexicans have been really, really good. they have been really
sophisticated in not allowing trump, not allowing the u.s. to be part of a campaign. but i think if things go sour and that becomes an issue, i think things are going to get pretty tense. a lot more confrontational between both sides, and that's not good for the people who live in between both countries. >> some journalists like to put themselves in their stories, and you have put yourself to great effect, great success, but could you talk about why you have chosen to do that? >> i think when you write a book and your editor asks you, i mean, you do it. but it has taken me a lot, you
know, the very first story i remember where i did it, and i also saw the impact it had on readers. was again working for frank allen and he was trying to do a story and why mexicans were not applying in the numbers he at this unexpected, i think there was a slow beginning and then it kind of increased pic but he said listen, you were a waiter at your mothers restaurant. people know you. you have access. a lot of journalism is really about access. if you access, you get people who trust you more. what about you going back to el paso? you are so damn homesick. i think at the time i was so homesick i was looking for intercourse, and, of course, the amish live and he said may be you can get out and find something else. and then not be so homesick and we can. but it's not meeting a lot of
mexican workers, and i i came alive and i was really so into it but he said why don't you go home and become a waiter and carry your notepad and ask people what's it like living in 1987 and there's a possibility of you becoming legalized? i wrote the story, it was a front-page story about a café, my moms restaurant. and has such a huge impact but it also, i felt pretty comfortable inviting that. i felt like i was, it just felt more and more real. some editors are not as comfortable with it. i did a piece right before the book came out for the new times looking at small town america. the mexicans who are revising small-town america, and wanted it on the front page. i mean, the front person, so i
have become equally comfortable on both ends. i think it comes down to the effect, you know, the impact you want with your reader. i can't see myself writing a story on sunday saying 80, 90 million mexicans are going to come out and vote in this election, and on watching people walk by back and forth. it depends on the moment. but in the book like "homelands" you have to throw yourself in. >> my grandfather was born in southern italy. why does there appear to be little affinity between third-generation italian-americans and the immigrants? you figure that they had a lot in common and some of the same slurs were employed against the italians 100 years ago, are employed against the immigrants. why is this a little affinity?
i'm thinking of prominent immigrant row shows like lou barletta, joe arpaio actually discouraging. >> it's the story of a country i think. if you look at my second generation at home, i find very few of my nieces, my nephews who feel that kind of affinity. i mean, when we're having a barbecue, my mom pulls out the -- you can see them rolled her eyes like come on. i think it's part of the assimilation that some people question whether mexicans are as assimilated as of the country or other cultures. i think they are wrong. i think it's such a powerful assimilation, and hence, i mean, i'm not coming getting back to "homelands," but i think if young people can pick up this book and feel that you don't have to forget the mexican side
of you or that part of you can still be able to embrace both sides, and hopefully i have done my job. there have been studies cited in the book just about how fast this assimilation process has taken over. i don't know, i hope, i mean, even though we are not separated by oceans, the process of becoming american, it's not that different if your a mexican or central america or if you're somewhere from latin america. >> that makes me think of the crisis a couple years ago, the children who were coming up from central america on their own. and some of the most visceral, aggressive rejection at the border in texas were among african-americans who were saying what about our kids? we don't even have access to certain immunities of
americanness. which made me think, and this thought has come back to me now more recently, that we are very forgetful about our even recent history. this is kind of a strange question because i know it's not exactly the journalists responsibility to do this, but who ought to be reminding us of these very near recent histories? 100 years ago isn't actually that long ago to have forgotten what we did to european immigrants, especially jewish people coming to the u.s. in the late 19th, early 20th century. we were responding even to asians coming to the u.s. from the same time, and the same linguistic and forceful policing manners.
so is that, so is it the writers and the story said to be doing this? it seems we have it terrible amnesia. >> in researching "homelands," there's so much stuff that we had to cut. i think at one point the book was something like 500 pages and i was trying to keep it at 250. but there was this fascinating part, now that you bring this up, during the chinese exclusion act, the number of them who were trying to sneak in through mexico and come to the united states, there's a great, great story, a great writer, david romo, this guy will spend years looking at issue. when i told david, it's my second book in five years, he just looked at me like i want to slap you around. but david has done some incredible work looking at how, for example, the chinese would come across from el paso and we
try to look mexican. and he says, i, it's always the fear of the evidence. actually what comes down to. even though you referred to central americans, but a lot of mexican-americans also at the time were like why do we spend so much time with the central americans? you can't defend that but it happens i think all across. >> i think we're out of time but maybe there is one more quick question that we can skirt in. >> by the way, thank you for coming. i was walking up and i thought wow, university of chicago, such a beautiful day. the last thing you want to do is listen to a book talk, but thank you much for being here. if there are any more questions i'd be happy to sign books. that's kind of what you do at