2501 migrants documentary alejandro santiago juanofwords

Film producer Yolanda Cruz and artist Alejandro Santiago.

Nibe te nuná, that is the one line in Zapotec that has stuck in my mind from this gem of a film.  It means “Why leave when you have it all here?” …and quite literally, I think it pretty much sums up what this documentary by Yolanda Cruz is all about.  2501 Migrants, as the film is aptly titled, tells the story of Oaxacan artist Alejandro Santiago, and how he comes to terms with returning from France to his village in southern Mexico only to discover his state of Oaxaca is now one of Mexico’s leading “exporters of human labor” to the United States.  In fact, just from his village alone, 2,501 people have migrated to the United States.

That specific number and the migrants that it represents become the subject of Santiago’s undertaking for this feature length documentary.  In effect, he is creating 2,501 migrants out of clay to symbolize the 2,501 people who have long since disappeared from his village.  It’s a powerful look at a reality we don’t often think about: What happens to the people and villages left behind when entire generations migrate?  What does the problem of migration mean to communities around the globe?  What is it that perhaps is being lost in the process of migration?  And most importantly, does the phrase nibe te nuná really ring true?

The documentary, at least, is definitely worth the watch!