Inocente: Challenging Conventional Stereotypes

Inocente is a 15 year old undocumented immigrant who has lived homeless for the past 9 years. While confined to the limitations of her situation, Inocente uses artistic expression to convey her emotions, temporarily escaping the adversity that surrounds her. The documentary follows Inocente’s daily life as she interacts with her family and produces original artwork for a community show. Inocente’s life sheds new light onto the bleak stereotypes of homelessness and undocumented immigrants.

The colorful and cartoon-like artwork Inocente created for the art show.

The colorful and cartoon-like artwork Inocente created for her art show.

Inocente immerses her viewers into a major problem for undocumented immigrant families, domestic abuse. When asked about the major dangers undocumented immigrant families face, several thoughts emerge: being smuggled across the border; surviving the dangers deserts of the Southwest; being discovered and deported; and financial issues. These prevalent stereotypes dominate the discussion about undocumented immigrants, closing the door on the many other problems they face. Inocente shares her grim story of domestic abuse that ultimately culminated with the deportation of her father and emotional distance from her mother. This look into Inocente’s life shows that even though they are a family of undocumented immigrants, they are still a regular family with problems reflected in other American households. Thinking of undocumented immigrants as only being underpaid workers constantly avoiding deportation is a narrow-minded stereotype and Inocente’s story of her family struggles shows that undocumented immigrants are regular people too.

Inocente’s colorful expression in her artwork and passion for becoming an artist breaks from traditional stereotype of a homeless person. When thinking of a homeless person, the first images that come to mind are: dirty old clothing, expressionless faces, and begging for money on the sidewalk. This stereotype of the homeless was proven wrong within the first 30 seconds of this documentary seeing Inocente apply her daily make-up and expressing her inner creativity with unique designs and bright colors. Instead of the dark and gloomy ideas that are commonly associated with homelessness, Inocente paints bright and cartoon-like characters on giant canvases, creating her own happy world. She perseveres to better herself in other facets of her life by attending school and working to legally emancipate herself from her mother. These examples of Inocente’s drive for a better life completely shatter my previous ill-informed stereotype, showing me the realities that life as a homeless person go beyond people just sitting on sidewalks with cardboard signs begging for money.

Picture showing the colorful and creative designs Inocente uses in her make-up.

Picture showing the colorful and creative designs Inocente uses in her make-up.

Inocente’s story serves as a great example to the ignorance of stereotypes and the value of peeking into a 15 year old’s life to overcome those misconceptions. Although being homeless and an undocumented immigrant are forever apart of Inocente’s life, she does not let those aspects detract from her dreams of becoming an artist and being happy.

Additional Links

Published study that address how the little data in the legal, medical, and social science research fields for intimate partner violence against immigrant women: (a) increase their vulnerability for abuse; (b) are used by batterers to control and abuse immigrant women; (c) create barriers to women seeking and receiving help:

Article addressing the surge of child homelessness in America:


“Inocente” documentary

Picture Links

Indignity in Mass Grave of Undocumented Immigrants

Millions of foreigners attempt to start a new life in the United States by illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Once across the border, the undocumented immigrants begin their hazardous trek by foot through the arid deserts where extreme temperatures and animals threaten life. Given all the dangers, it is not surprising that the U.S. Border patrol annually finds, on average, 417 undocumented immigrant bodies in the Southwest in places like mass graves. Lori Baker, Ph.D. leads a team of thirty archaeologists and forensic students from Baylor University excavating a mass grave of undocumented immigrants in Falfurrias, Texas, eighty miles from the U.S.-Mexican border. The main goals of Baker’s excavation is to identify the deceased and thereby restore their dignity even in death.

Illustration showing the number of undocumented immigrant bodies found in the Southwestern desert each year.

Illustration showing the number of undocumented immigrant bodies found in the Southwestern desert each year.

The archaeological strategies in this research are challenging, and Baker’s team must be careful when searching for the bodies because a majority of the remains have been skeletonized. Shovels cannot be used because the remains have been buried so carelessly, forcing the researchers to dig by hand, a daunting task in the 100+ degree weather. Once bodies are found and carefully removed, the team pushes a metal wire down into the soil to test its resistance. The resistance will show if there are more bodies buried underneath.

Dr. Lori Baker and her team cataloging a set of bones uncovered at the mass grave site in Falfurrias, Texas.

Dr. Lori Baker and her team cataloging a set of bones uncovered at the mass grave site in Falfurrias, Texas.

Baker’s team has unearthed bodies in multiple receptacles, amplifying the brutal disregard for these immigrants’ lives. Baker referenced that, “They’ve been in trash bags; They’ve been in milk crates; We found one in a top handled green bag from a funeral home that had ‘dignity’ on the side and there’s no dignity in someone being buried in trash bags.” The recovered bodies are thought to be Central American immigrants; all hoping to find better life in the United States. The final step for Baker and her team is to transport the remains back to the Baylor Lab for DNA testing. Researchers hope to identify the remains so that they can notify the family and bring some closure to the deceased’s whereabouts.

DNA analysis picture

Dr. Lori Baker in her Baylor University laboratory inventorying remains found in the Texas desert.

The excavation of mass graves illuminates the mistreatment of undocumented immigrant remains and Baker builds off her teams’ findings to suggest a solution. Eliminating the initial need for the dangerous journey is the root of the solution. The current immigration laws concerning United States citizenship are not in the best interest of immigrants. Baker describes the massive spike of finding children remains after talk of the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act, which permits immigrant students who grew up in the United States to become citizens, encourages undocumented immigrants to bring their children through the desert. Unfortunately, these children cannot properly regulate the intense heat, leading to their premature death. A change in the immigration reform is necessary to solve this problem so immigrants do not have to endanger their lives for the American dream and anthropologists like Lori Baker will no longer have to excavate these mass graves and struggle to bring a measure of human decency to the immigrants’ final remains.

Additional Links

What the DREAM Act is and how it affects undocumented immigrants:

Deaths of undocumented immigrants in the Arizona desert:

Addresses the undocumented immigrants that are smuggled into the US and other routes across the border (Florida):


Picture Links×422

Is Punk Archaeology the Real Deal?

A collective of punk archaeologist set out to the south west to excavate a New Mexican landfill. Andrew Reinhard, the lead archaeologist for the investigation, defined punk archaeology in an interview as archeology work that embodies Punk Rock’s do-it-yourself aesthetic. The purpose of the five punk archeologists visit to Alamogordo, New Mexico is to investigate the famous myth that the gaming company Atari secretly dumped all of its unsold E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial game in the early 1980’s. Although many of the news and media outlets portrayed the main purpose of the project to find out if the games were really dumped in the New Mexican desert, this is untrue. The archaeologist already knew the games were there. The archaeologist’s purpose of the Atari investigation was actually to gain a unique look on corporate history and the end-of-lifecycle for products. This example of the Atari investigation demonstrates how punk archaeology succeeds in establishing modes of thought but only to a certain extent.

The Punk archaeology’s investigation gained national attention from media outlets such as BBC, NPR, CNN, and NBC. These outlets turned the excavation of a remote town in New Mexico into international news that attracted people, mostly game enthusiasts, to find out more about the Atari myth. During the physical digging of the landfill, the city of Alamogordo became inhabited by hundreds of curious onlookers, documentary film crews, and reporters. All this attention shows that punk archaeology is able to attract media attention towards itself, leading to a heightened curiosity to what they are investigating. But although punk archaeology can get people interested in the subject of its investigation, the actual archaeologists are not in control of the direction of the information to the public.

The media outlets are selecting the information told to the public because they are the ones attempting to sustain the viewers’ attention. The punk archaeologists in Alamogordo are more interested in the understanding of corporate history and the end-of-lifecycle for products, but that isn’t eye-popping enough to keep the national attention for very long. However, the media’s focus on, “Are the rumors true? Have we found the mythical and secret dumping grounds of Atari?!?!” grabs the viewers’ attention and does not let it go. So even though the punk archaeologist can gain the initial intention with their unique investigations, the media outlets run with the projects and can shift its focus to fit the public’s desire and short attention spans.

Punk archaeology does effectively establish modes of thought, although the focuses of those thoughts are not always displayed to the general public by the major media outlets. The media side of punk archaeology does positively contribute by drawing attention to the project. And once media outlets peak the curiosity of a viewer, the viewer is now aware of the project’s existence and can then research the published work from the actual archaeologists.

Link to Reinhard Interview:

Coprolites Reveal Earlier Date for First North Americans

Coprolites are fossilized feces that can be analytically examined to understand archaeological events. Fourteen coprolites were found by archaeologists at the lowest levels of the Paisley 5-mile point caves in south-central Oregon. The coprolites found it this site were morphologically human based on the size, shape, consistency, and color. Upon further analysis using multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR), all fourteen coprolites tested positive for human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). The next step for the archaeologists was to date the age of these coprolites.

Panorama of the Paisley 5 mile point caves in south-central Oregon where the coprolites were found.

Panorama of the Paisley 5 mile point caves in south-central Oregon where the coprolites were found.

The coprolites were dated using an accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) system. This radiocarbon dating system found that the three oldest produced an age of 12,300 14C years B.P. To ensure the validity of these coprolites dates, the archaeologists sent the five coprolites from the deepest layers to be direct dated by AMS at two independent laboratories; Beta Analytic in Florida, USA and Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at the University of Oxford, UK. These two labs used two different methodologies for analyzing the coprolites and could be cross examined for accuracy. From the five coprolites sent to both labs, four produced consistent dates ranging approximately 1300 to 12,300 14C years B.P. and three pre-dated 11,000 14C years B.P. This data confirms that humans were present in North America before the Clovis people.

This is the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry system that was used to detect the long-lived radionuclides in the coprolites.

A breakdown of the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry system that was used to detect and analyze the long-lived radionuclides in the coprolites.

The Clovis people are a group of prehistoric Native Americans commonly thought to be the first human inhabitants of North America. They are named after the town where their artifacts were found in Clovis, New Mexico and they inhabited the area around 11,000 14C years B.P. The latest coprolite studies from Oregon question the age of North American inhabitants. Many other pre-Clovis occupation sites have been recorded around North America but they remain controversial because of the lack of human artifacts to accurately date the sites. The coprolites found at the Paisley 5 mile point caves are so crucial because they undisputedly confirm pre-Clovis humans. The DNA in the coprolites not only dated the age of the humans who produced them, but they also gave us an insight to their diet.

Many of the coprolites contained canid 16S mitochondrial DNA that is similar to the red fox, coyote, domestic dog, or wolf. Among the coprolites the archaeologists also found a diverse amount of canid bones. The two most likely explanations for these findings are that the earliest humans in North America included canids in their diet or that canids inhabited the caves during nonhuman occupation and directly urinated on the human feces. Both theories give us insight to the past and the importance of coprolite analysis in resolving the historical record.

Additional Links

What AMS is and how it is works:

Analysis of Coprolites found in the Hidden Caves of western Nevada:


Picture links