Date of Award

Summer 7-25-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in American Studies (MAST)


Interdisciplinary Studies

Committee Chair/First Advisor

Dr. Rodolfo Aguilar

Second Advisor

Dr. Ernesto Silva


The purpose of this paper is to reveal cultural challenges indigenous peoples and people in poverty face in their Central American homelands and in the United States when migrating northward. Central Americans living in economic and social structures of hardship and/or cultural persecution leave their home places seeking to survive. Analyzing two works of art, the fictionalized realty film El Norte and the book Enrique’s Journey, provide a revealing lens into economic and political plights facing Central American migrants that drives them to leave. Past imperialists’ confiscation of the region’s natural resources and subjugation of its native peoples cemented their control of political and economic structures, thus creating a class divide that alienates peasant populations to subsistence living today. Central Americans living in perpetual poverty and cultural alienation hope to find better lives in the United States. However, once arriving, they find social acceptance difficult to obtain and exploitation in low-paying jobs that require enduring long hours while performing physically taxing tasks. Central American migrants find “life is very hard here” in ways that are different from their native lands. In addition, they find their cultural identities of traditional dress, language, and customs must be compromised in order to acculturate in the United States.