In these trying times, divisions among people – based on race, religion, nationality and political affiliation – are leading us to feel disconnected and even hostile towards one another. Terrorism, shootings and a resurgence of racism can all be traced back to humanity’s fragmentation into groups that compete with one another for territory, resources and glory, a mindset that keeps us locked in struggle. In reading history books, we get the impression that it has always been this way. Tribes, clans and city-states have always been at war, competing for superiority in this same way we do now, haven’t they?
While it is true that war and violent competition have been around as long as man, there are also ancestral stories about connection, unity and collaboration that haven’t been told in high school textbooks. Understanding these stories might help us to re-imagine a more peaceful, productive way to relate to one another in modern times. For example, many Americans perceive our man-made borders to be something much more solid and divisive than they really are, an imaginary construct that has led us to view people who were born on the other side of the border as creatures who are fundamentally, inherently different from us.
We have all heard the stereotypes. We call them “aliens”, “foreigners”, “illegals.” We talk about building a physical wall to separate “us” from “them.” We literally force families apart, using the border to separate mothers and fathers from their own children for years at a time. But these borders are relatively new. People, ideas and trade used to flow freely between South, Central and North on this continent. While separations still may have existed based on tribes, families, etc., there were no limits based on legal borders or nations or birth place.
This past Thursday at Dallas’ Angelika Film Center, the Mexico Institute sponsored a screening of the first in a series of documentaries (by Executive Producer Margaret Donnelly of Atitlan Productions and Director Alex Garcia Topete of Nowadays Orange Productions) exploring the historical connections between North, Central and South America. This documentary, called “Our Americas: The Roads That Bind” featured stories about the ancient intercontinental trade routes that historians have neglected to study. At the time when these roads were used, freedom to travel, trade and move at will between the Americas would have brought an exchange of knowledge, myths, spiritual practices and genetics. They didn’t have artificially constructed borders that would have led them to feel physically separated from one another.
If we didn’t carve the Western Hemisphere up into cages where people are trapped upon birth, might the free flow of movement between all points on our landmass allow us to feel like a more united people? Would more porous borders reduce racism and prejudice? What do you think? “Our Americas” provokes such questions in the minds of thoughtful viewers. The vision of a more unified, peaceful world certainly makes such questions worthwhile.
For more information about how to screen or show “Our Americas: The Roads That Bind”, please contact Tina Robles at firstname.lastname@example.org.