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La Americana

La Americana

October 2000, Cochabamba, Bolivia. Maria del Carmen Rojas, a young single mother, faces a life-changing catastrophe when her nine-year-old daughter Carla is struck and run over by a bus, leaving Carla in a wheelchair, and Carmen with insurmountable medical expenses.

Unable to pay for Carla's hospital bills and specialized care, Carmen borrows money from friends and family to keep her daughter alive. With no opportunities to earn a sufficient living to support her daughter, Carmen tries in vain to get a visa to go to the United States. As her desperation grows, Carmen decides to leave Carla behind and make the dangerous journey to the U.S. After nearly suffocating in the trunk of a sedan crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, Carmen makes it to New York where she can send money home and give her daughter the chance to live a life with opportunity, despite her disability.

June 2006, New York City, U.S.A. Living and working illegally cleaning houses and stores in the U.S, Carmen earns enough to support Carla from afar. Though Carmen is able to provide for her daughter's medical needs, Carla does not understand why she must grow up without her mother.

Carmen cannot visit Carla in Bolivia, as she knows she may not be able to cross back into the United States, on which their lives would depend. Unable to get any working papers, Carmen watches in frustration as Congress defeats a bill granting amnesty to long-term undocumented immigrants. But as six years of separation approaches, so does the date at which Carmen promised her daughter they would be together again: Carla's quinceañera.

After risking her life to come to the United States, Carmen must once again sacrifice what she has come to know as home, and the security of Carla's future, so that she can keep her word and be at her daughters side.

February 2007, Cochabamba, Bolivia. It is only seven months into Carmen's stay, but the joyful reunion of Carla's birthday party already seems like a distant memory. Carmen's money has run out, and her daughter needs an operation that she cannot afford. Though no immigration agreement has been reached in Congress, 6,000 national guardsmen have been placed on the U.S.-Mexico border. Will Carmen risk her life again in the California desert? Will Carla understand losing her mother again? Will Congress make a way for undocumented immigrants to see their families without losing their American dream?

La Americana is Carmen's story, and the story of millions of illegal immigrants forced to leave their families behind in order to provide them a better life. It is the story of a continent divided not by values, but by a physical and political barrier that separates families indefinitely, sometimes forever.

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