Maid In America review

:. Director: Anayansi Prado
:. Genre: Documentary
:. Running Time: 0:57
:. Year: 2005
:. Country: USA


There are over 100,000 domestic workers in Los Angeles, women who leave their families behind in Central America and Mexico in order to take care of other people's children and homes here in southern California. They're the women who take the bus, who live in cramped apartments with walls covered with pictures of their children—children they don't see for years, being raised by their grandmothers and aunts thousands of miles away.

Director Anayansi Prado follows the stories of three of these women as they go about their day-to-day work in the wealthy enclaves of L.A. Eva dreams of using her accounting degree to work her way up as she scrubs toilets. Thelma raises a child who calls her mom and clutches her hand on the first day of school. She dabs tears as his parents take pictures of him in front of the school. At the same time, Thelma is very aware that the child she is caring for will not need her one day. Jokingly, she shares that sometimes she hugs him tightly and tells him that he is her bread and her rent. The reality of the situation is not lost on anyone.

Undocumented workers in L.A. work wherever they can find jobs. And the American economy is totally dependent on them. From raising children and maintaining a household to keeping lawns beautiful, offices clean and restaurants functioning, our economy could not function in its present state. By taking a snapshot of women we see at the bus stop while driving through the streets of Los Angeles and further developing it, we also have an opportunity to see them beyond their urban anonymity. For $5 or so an hour, how much will they really be able to advance?

Anayansi doesn't focus on painting a simple picture of desperation, however. These women form a collective to give themselves benefits such as health care. One older woman writes a theater piece detailing the abuses she endured with callous employers. We follow Judith home as she brings home her newborn baby to visit his sisters in Central America, girls who refer to their aunt as their mother, causing some obvious but not unexpected tension. The success of this documentary is that we become engrossed in each individual story and the bigger questions raised start to demand an answer.

Though the economic benefits are apparent, Anayansi questions the benefits this provides to the traditional familial structure for both sides. Of course a child in Central America is probably better off economically, but what about his or her relationship with his mother? And of course a child is better off having a caregiver rather than being a latchkey kid, but how will the child view the woman hired to care for him when he's older? The film posits that they will either grow up seeing Latinas as their servants or, hopefully, they will grow up with an appreciation of another culture and language different from their own. Only time will tell.

  Anji Milanovic

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