Given a Face and A Voice

"Maid In America" documents Latina domestic workers

By Anayansi Prado
Published on LatinoLA: April 25, 2002

Given a Face and A Voice

"Maid in America", a documentary about Latinas who clean homes and help people raise their kids, was born out of a personal struggle. When I first arrived to Los Angeles back in November of 1998, I was planning to stay for six months before heading back to New York City.

For the first few months I lived here, I rode the bus. For anyone who uses public transportation in LA, you know that it is a world of its own, with its own issues, advantages and disavantages.

Not having a car in a city like this was a challenge. But it was out of this obstacle that my inspiration was conceived.

While riding the bus, I had the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. Many of the women I would encounter during my morning commute happened to be Latinas on their way to work to wealthy neighborhoods on the west side of town. According to statistics, there are approximately 100,000 Latina domestic workers in Los Angeles. 70% are from Latin America.

I began to hear stories about their work and families they work for. Some stories were of exploitation, other were of inmense gratitude to their employers. Needless to say, they varied. They also spoke about their families and especially of their children back in their home countries. (It is estimated that at least one of every two Latinas has left one of more children in their home country.)

All their stories were different, but one thing all stories they all had in common was that they awakened my curiosity to know more about these women and their lives.

In March 1999 I embarked in the making of "Maid in America". With only a laptop computer and the Internet as my allies, I began to research the subject of domestic workers. Eventually I found books such as "Maid in the USA" and got in contact with the author, Professor Mary Romero. We brainstormed a lot.

Then, I had to put together a crew...find a producer, camera man, production team. Oh yeah, and equipment to shoot the film. I had nothing. No professional camera. No money. Only an idea.

I began by conducting interviews with subjects on a Hi-8 camera I had since college. Eventually, I found people who were interested in working on the film and we were able to have access to a digital camera off and on. Now that we had a crew, some footage and interviews under our belt -- basically something to show -- we began applying to grants. After two years of working on this film, we were finally awarded our first grant, from the reputable MacArthur Foundation. It is nice to finally get some recognition and financial help.

To my surprise the easiest part of making this film has been getting the women to open up. Many of them see this documentary as an opportunity to speak to the world, to tell everyone who they are, were they came from and what their lives are like. The majority are eager to become an open book and share their stories of joy, sorrow, sacrifice and hope.

They have shown their kindness by opening their hearts, homes and lives to us.

Making an independent film is a labor of love. The sacrifices are many, from having to work one or more jobs to pay the rent and bills, to sacrificr spending time with family and friends. But, the rewards are enormous.

Along the way, I have met some wonderful, community minded-people who have helped "Maid in America" get to where it is today. Their support, love and dedication has been invaluable.

Still, there are some hard times and the road ahead seems endless.

But the one thing that keeps me and everyone else going is the thought that this film is really about a group of Latinas who earn a living in an honest and harworking way. And like many immigrants throughout Los Angeles, they need to be given a face and a voice.

So, when times get tough, I try to remember that this film is about our community and the beginning of what I hope would begin a change in the way we look at Latino immigrants, or better yet, the New Americans.

5/5 - 4:00PM to 7:00PM - Fundraiser
Maid in America
In support of this documentary about Latina domestic workers. Attending the event will be some of the women featured in the movie. Footage will be screened. Mexican entrees and appetizers.
Venue: Bar Marmont
Address: 8171 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood
Admission: Donation
Email: impactofilms@hotmail.com

About Anayansi Prado:
Anayansi Prado was born in Panama and holds a B.A. in Film from Boston University.

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