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Jesus as a migrant in Mexico City pro-immigration street theater

April 6, 2009 |  9:45 am

Traffic on Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma was blocked briefly last Friday afternoon by an actor in the role of Jesus.

Wearing a long white robe over jeans and sneakers and carrying a cross fashioned roughly out of wood, ''Jesus'' took a tumble on a pedestrian crossing on the traffic artery in front of the U.S. Embassy while on his way to Calvary Hill.

But Friday’s performance wasn’t part of Mexico’s traditional Semana Santa (Easter week) activities, which are now in full swing. The depiction of the crucifixion of Christ in the tradition known as the Stations of the Cross, or Via Crucis, had a cross-border purpose.

Organized by pro-immigration activists, the street performance depicted Jesus as a Mexican migrant, and as the actor walked around dragging his cross, others wearing T-shirts emblazoned with ICE (U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and INM (Instituto Nacional de Migracion, Mexico's national migration agency) flogged him from behind shouting, “Walk, wretch, walk!”

One of the organizers was Elvira Arellano, who shot into the spotlight in both the United States and Mexico in 2006 after she took refuge in a Chicago church to avoid being deported back to Mexico. Click here to read more about Arellano's case.

Arellano was eventually deported, leaving behind her 10-year-old son Saul, who was born in the United States after she had crossed the border illegally from Mexico.

“It's very sad that the migration policies treat us as though we were basically terrorists or criminals,” Arellano said in an interview after the protest.

“We're just families looking for a better life. We want to live better and we all believe we have the right to look for work opportunities. Unfortunately, we don’t find those opportunities here in Mexico, which is why we go looking for those opportunities in the United States.”

Arellano, who was accompanied by protesters carrying signs that said "Stop the Deportations" in English and Spanish, implored Mexican as well as U.S authorities to show more respect for migrants' human rights. As we reported last year, tens of thousands of Central Americans traverse Mexico illegally each year on their way to the U.S. border. Migrants have been maimed or killed hopping aboard freight trains. Others are robbed or raped.

Often, they are arrested and held in squalid cells or denied medical care. In hundreds of cases, Central American families never hear from their relatives again.

“Mexico’s National Migration Institute is complicit with the U.S immigration authorities because here in Mexico they ignore the rights of migrants who come from Central America,” Arellano said.

Thousands of Mexicans and Central Americans cross the U.S. border with Mexico illegally every year.

See the video for more.

Pro-immigration street theater in Mexico City


-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

Image: A Mexican actor playing Jesus takes a tumble in front of the U.S Embassy Friday during a street theater performance depicting Jesus as a Mexican migrant. Click here for more images on Flickr. Deborah Bonello / Los Angeles Times

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