2011 Award Winner Tony Macias

Tony Macias received the 2011 Petrow-Freeman Documentary Award. A SAF Into the Fields intern in 1998, Tony worked for SC Migrant Health in Columbia, SC. After his internship, Tony joined the SAF staff as the Assistant Director for six years before moving to Oaxaca, Mexico to work with Witness for Peace (go here to learn more about WFP's important work).

Retorno 360

Migration has affected the lives of million of Mexicans, both those who leave home and those they leave behind. Its causes include global factors like violence and poverty, whose causes in turn are social inequality and the state's failure to respond to the needs of its citizens. Policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) mean that small farmers are competing with subsidized products from the US, and have driven millions from the Mexican countryside in search of economic survival. According to the brutal logic of free trade, if these people (and their families, communities, and traditions) are unwilling to change, then they have become expendable.

But reality is always richer than our models can demonstrate, more complicated than our policymakers wish it to be. There are as many reasons to migrate as there are people migrating. And for those of us not forced from home, cultivating curiosity about why people uproot themselves could cure us of an unpardonable ignorance.  When we ask why people act in a particular way, we make them visible and welcome their complexity.  The more we do this, the less expendable they become. For those among us who have been forced into migration, the simple act of telling our stories makes our humanity impossible to ignore.

Retorno 360 tells the story of a Oaxacan migrant, Inocencio Melchor Hernandez, and the family he left behind. As he searched for new experiences and economic opportunity in the U.S. over nearly 20 years, his wife and children made life work back in their small town. Like many trials, the many years they spent apart had positive and negative consequences: grief, loss, and anger coexist with the self-assuredness and pride that come from having overcome many challenges. Now that seven years have gone by since he returned, this is also a story of reconciliation.

This project would not have been possible without the generosity and trust that Inocencio, Cira, Nestor, and Laura gave me when they let me invade their lives for several months. I am also very grateful to Student Action with Farmworkers and those behind the Petrow-Freeman Documentary Award for giving me the training, support, funding, and inspiration to carry out this project. I want to thank the advisory committee that helped me through this project, including Chris Sims, Derek Anderson, Joanna Welborn, Melinda Wiggins, Bart Evans,  Raúl Gámez, Rosalva Soto, Charlie Thompson, and Steven Petrow. Elena Rue, Mikel Barton, Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein, Aylwin Lo, and several others also gave indispensable advice and support during crucial moments in the project. Finally, thank you to the Witness for Peace Mexico Team for your support while I worked away at this extensive project!

Watch Retorno 360 here.