Capitalism: An Oppressive Production
As we walk around metropolitan cities, we are amazed with the vast size of corporate buildings and we admire the women and men in business suits frantically working. We stay ignorant to the people in front of the building begging for money, the single mother working overtime at the cafe next door, and immigrant workers being forced out of surrounding housing complexes. Through the play, Who Shot La Miguelito, I want to analyze the ways in which the performance was able to capture the issues of how capitalism in America has further disadvantaged groups of minorities. The specific scene I plan to center my analyzation on is when two real estate developers, Yip and Yap, are introduced into the play, presented as well dressed and busy people. They scope the area, discussing back and forth on the profitability of the buildings looking towards the imaginative shops next to Miguelito’s alter, consisting of lit candles, pictures, and flowers. They later convince one of the building owners, Nina, to give up her families manufacturing company to the developers, reminding us of the ways in which capitalism has taken advantage of minorities. Throughout the paper, I plan to show my research of capitalism and its connection to poverty through images, the play itself, and outside class lectures. Through Who Shot La Miguelito, I hope to show how capitalistic practices such as exploiting land for company assets and moving in wealthy people has disadvantaged minorities, specifically people of color and the working class by taking away their land and raising poverty rates within these marginalized groups. I also hope to show Capitalism as a performance and the ways in which it has performed land exploitations, make-belief performances, and has re-performed historical parallels of colonization.
One way that Capitalism has performed America is the ways in which it utilizes parallel forms of colonization: land exploitation. In the play, Who Shot La Miguelito, the acquisition of cheap land area was performed in the scenario when the two real estate developers begin scouting the area near where La Miguelito was shot. Specifically, on page 22 of the script, Yap says, “It’s a big fricking building. Could be a big one for us. Boom! Right in the middle heart of the— so weird through right… Look around: the old cop station, the closed meat packing place, the empty parking lots.” Yip later see’s the profitability of these places by responding with, “Hello: the new mini bedroom apartments, the Dog Yoga Spot…” This example has been so deeply embedded in a historical parallel of capitalism, similar to when explorers took over indigenous land for individual profit, killing natives for the resources the land was enriched with. Very similarly, this part in the play performs this historical practice by showing how the developers only see the land for its profitability, staying ignorant to the dependency of Latinx family owners to the meat manufacturing shop and having no sympathy for those who have an emotional connection with the building close to where La Miguelito was shot. We can blame this kind of ignorance in the ways in which capitalism is so embedded into the structuring of our nation. The make-belief that capitalism is just an everyday function apart of our consumer attitudes and necessities. But it is because our nation was built upon capitalism and its exploitive practices that we must depend on it for the basic needs to live. But this can change through understanding how Capitalistic performances of land exploitation have no consideration for the people they exploit, specifically those who depend on the land for living and community necessities, only focusing on individual gain.
Painting depicting Christopher Columbus, known for colonizing native land for personal riches promised. Public Domain, 2019
In Who Shot La Miguelito, the play is held in three areas: Mission Dolores, Treat, and 17th, all real areas in San Francisco that is known for it’s diverse population of immigrants, the working class, and people of color. This is important to mention as these areas in reality are being harmed by the capitalistic effects of moving in wealthier residents, a process known as gentrification. Gentrification is a performative action of Capitalism in the ways it pushes out people that depend on the land. In the image depicting protests in the Mission, current residents are fighting against the gentrification of their homes and the rise in real estate prices. According to Kurtis Alexander in his SF Gate article, “More protests over tech employees’ buses,” he states that “Protesters sought to draw attention to what they see as a lack of community engagement by tech workers, and to the economic downside of the industry boom, including soaring housing costs.” These buses are helping companies better exploit working class neighborhoods as they appeal to corporate workers to move into their homes. The landlords then raise the housing prices to gain profit. This evicts people from their homes who depend on their minimum wage salary. The result is homelessness as depicted in the following picture of a woman sleeping in front of city hall. The homeless crisis is affecting working class people and immigrant communities, as performed in Who Shot La Miguelito and real protests. Capitalism doesn’t just focus on the rich, but its effects are causing people the basic necessities to live, creating an America where basic needs are inaccessible.
Art that depicts how Capitalism pushes out lower-class residents/Priggze, Free Market Capitalism, 1996
Capitalism does not only affect the working class and is not just restricted to the boundaries of the United States, but it also affects people of color across the American hemisphere. Who Shot La Miguelito utilizes the performance of actors that are people of color to generate a new way to see how something adversely affects a broad range of communities. Their performance in the play adds so much depth to the performance itself and creates a general feeling of familiarity, or exposing what we have been so blind to: people of color that look like everyday citizens being unknowingly harmed by Capitalism. In the data of Poverty by Ethnicity by the U.S census data, people of color make up a majority of the poverty population in the United States, with Native Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics a large majority. In the play, Who Shot La Miguelito, a large portion of the characters that lived in the area being taken over by the real estate developers were people of color. Pre-civil rights era, white people benefited off institutional racism that disadvantaged colored people, especially women, from being able to work their way up in the job force. Capitalism in a way contributes to institutional racism and its' oppressive nature by having its practices blatantly make them poorer. Even in today’s society, people of color continue with this struggle as we can see from the large population they make up in poverty. The minority group of female people of color are largely affected by Capitalism, specifically in its' branch of globalization.
Capitalism has performed its exploitative practices throughout the American hemisphere and has been deeply embedded in colonial history. In relation to what we have learned in the class, in Robert Acuna's "Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, New York," he brings up how Mexico's system of Capitalism was a branch of the need for economic development after Spanish Imperialism. He states that "...it became evident that the Mexican economy had begun to stabilize...wanted to follow the example of the United States and Industrialize the country." (page 2) This system was made to believe that it was an opportunity to stabilize the country. It completely ignored the harsh working force that depended on the labor force of the lower class. Similarly, in the documentary, Maquilapolis, Tijuana women in Mexico are the main source of labor for large corporation manufacturing processes. These corporations exploited their land, poisoning its natural resources, having horrible working conditions, and taking advantage of the cheap labor. This is not only a huge reflection of how capitalism is across the American Hemisphere, but it reiterates the idea that people of color are furthered disadvantaged by the poverty it brings. Hispanic women specifically as presented in Who Shot La Miguelito are taken advantage of with our character Nina, who in fact is a Latina granddaughter to the owners of the building the developers want to take.
Federal employees, notably people of color, protesting economic abuse/ AP PHOTO, Julio Corte
Capitalism across America as performed in Who Shot La Miguelito shows us the ways in which its practices continuously uphold oppressive and institutional practices that disadvantage marginalized groups into poverty. It representations of land being taken for profit through the buildings near La Miguelito’s altar, the family owned meat shop, and all the history in the land are a huge reflection of today’s reality. Capitalism continues to drag out the working class into homelessness and makes it harder for people of color to work their way up in socio-economic class. Its institutions crave to benefit off of the poor with their willingness to work for barely livable wages. Capitalism today performs the colonial practices that acquired the America we live in. We need to reevaluate the systems that capitalism supports, rebuild the communities that were taken advantage of, redistribute the wealth held in America, and perform an America where everyone is equal.
Acuna, Rodolfo. "Occupied America: A History of Chicanos" New York, Harper & Row, 1981.
Alexander, Kurtis. “More Protests over Tech Employees' Buses.” SFGate, San Francisco Chronicle, 21 Dec. 2013, https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/More-protests-over-tech-employees-buses-5083275.php.
Funari, Vicky. Torre, Sergio “Maquilapolis,” 2006
Knight, Heather. “A Decade of Homelessness: Thousands in S.F. Remain in Crisis.” SFGate, San Francisco Chronicle, 28 June 2014, https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/A-decade-of-homelessness-Thousands-in-S-F-5585773.php.
San Jose, Sean. “ Who Shot La Miguelito,” Campo Santo, 2010-2013
“The Population of Poverty USA.” Poverty USA, https://www.povertyusa.org/facts.