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Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Monday, February 15, 2010

Slaughterhouse Sweatshop: Filmmaker exposes US dirty secrets

Slaughterhouse Sweatshop: Filmmaker exposes US dirty secrets

Guatemala filmmaker tells story of stories of the ICE raid in Postville, Iowa

By Brenda Norrell
UN OBSERVER & International Report

TUCSON -- Americans want to go to the supermarket and find their meat neatly packaged. They don't want to hear about the 14-year-old girl from Guatemala who worked 12 hours a day, or the woman who was raped by her supervisor at the meat packing plant. They don't want to hear about the mothers who have "kill" water thrown on them or hear a young girl crying from the pain in her hands from operating power meat cutting shears.

Americans don't want to hear about Postville, Iowa, or how the US spent $5.2 million on a raid that revealed the underbelly of not just the meat packing industry, but of the abuse of migrant workers by US companies and the sinister justice delivered by the US Justice Department.

Guatemalan filmmaker Luis Argueta is telling this story. On Monday night at the University of Arizona, Argueta previewed thirty minutes of his work in progress of the feature documentary film, "abUSed: The Postville Raid." It is just a portion of the 350 hours of testimonies and interviews he has conducted in Postville and Guatemala over the past 20 months.

Argueta's film is a story of stories, revealing aspects ranging from the violation of US child labor laws, to malnutrition in Guatemala and the fear that followed 9/11. That fear offers US authorities an excuse to carry out widespread violations of human rights.

"I grew up being fed fear," said Argueta, who grew up in Guatemala. But, he adds, the fear that is being fed Americans did not stop the townspeople of Postville from coming to the aid of the 389 migrants seized in the ICE raid by the 900 heavily-armed US agents at the Agriprocessors, Inc., meat packing plant on May 12, 2008.
The migrant workers were shackled and detained at the National Cattle Congress, which was transformed into a jail and courthouse. Even one of the sentencing judges said it was a travesty of justice. Most workers served five months in jail and were then deported with 10 years probation in their home country.

The film speaks of malnutrition and the poverty, hunger and desperation that pushes people to leave their homes and families in search of survival.

After Postville, Argueta went to Guatemala to tell the stories of the deported families from Postville. One young girl, now a toddler who was born in the US, has only coffee to drink because there is no milk. Guatemala has one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world.

Argueta said US corporations view the poor and desperate as "disposables." With excellent storytelling and cinematography, Argueta reveals the struggle for survival and dignity of migrants, many of whom are Mayans and other Indigenous Peoples.
Argueta said that US authorities care whether a cow is killed with a sharp knife, but nothing about the migrant worker.

More about the film:

More about the film series:

Voices of Opposition to War, Racism and Oppression

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