In this article, I argue that Hannah Weyer’s documentaries La boda (2000) and Escuela (2002) use the metaphor of teen angst to explore how receiving countries tend to equate the process of successful immigration with that of reaching adulthood. With her unobtrusive camera work, Weyer invites the viewer to become aware of the disturbing parallel between the coming-of-age of the Luis sisters and the assimilation process imposed on them, as second-generation immigrants in the US. Navigating through different stages of adolescence, Liliana and Elizabeth struggle as much with the transition from children to grown-ups as they do with the unspoken cultural expectation that in order to climb the socio-economic ladder they are to leave their Mexican roots behind. Real-life examples of the “immigrant paradox” (Coll & Marks; Markides & Coreil; Portes & Zhou; Wirth), “the second generation revolt” (Gans) or “the second generation decline” (Perlmann & Waldinger), the sisters do not seem to continue the “straight-line assimilation” that was initiated by their parents (cf. Park & Burgess; Warner & Srole). Based on the zealous assumption that each generation that issues from immigration will go through a gradually smoother incorporation into mainstream society, the straight-line assimilation theory predicts upward mobility for each generation in matters of education and employment thanks to increasing residential concentration and intermarriage patterns, and decreasing ethnic distinctiveness in language use (Waters et al.). However, as Elizabeth and Liliana go through financial, legal, and educational turmoil, they do not simply poke holes in this overly enthusiastic theory. They demonstrate that with the way the American schooling and social security systems are currently designed, their demographic was always set up to fail anyway (cf. Berry; Berry et al.; Marks et al.).
Migration; Documentary; Segmented Assimilation; Barbarian; Mexican Immigration