Now a cult classic, Born in East L.A. features Cheech Marin, formerly of the Cheech and Chong comedy duo, as an American citizen mistakenly deported to Tijuana. The film, which marks Marin’s first solo performance, is based on Cheech and Chong’s 1985 parody song of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”
Within its relatively brief eighty-seven-minute running time, Born in East L.A. manages to explode an array of stereotypes associated with Hispanic Americans (Chicanos), insensitive Border Patrol officials, predatory immigrant smugglers, and the difficulties of crossing a heavily patrolled border. The film’s comic plot is set in motion when Rudy (Marin), a resident of East Los Angeles, is asked by his mother to pick up his cousin, an undocumented Mexican immigrant working at a toy factory in Los Angeles. Absent-mindedly leaving his wallet, with all its identification papers, at home, Rudy arrives at the factory at the moment immigration officers are conducting a raid and arresting undocumented workers. Swept up in the raid and arrested along with dozens of Mexican nationals, Rudy cannot establish his U.S. citizenship and is put on a bus and sent to Tijuana, Mexico, along with the undocumented workers. After he arrives in Mexico, his problems are compounded by his lack of money and inability to speak Spanish. A born and bred English-speaking American citizen, he cannot get back into his own country simply because he lacks documentation and does not match the stereotype of a typical Anglo-American.
After enduring several days in a Mexican jail, Rudy befriends Jimmy (Daniel Stern), an American former convict who gets him a series of menial jobs so he can earn enough money to pay a Mexican
Chong, Thomas. Cheech and Chong: The Unauthorized Autobiography. New York: Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2008. Marin, Cheech, et al. Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge. Boston: Little, Brown, 2002. Torranes, Thomas. The Magic Curtain: The Mexican-American Border in Fiction, Film, and Song. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 2002.
Border Patrol, U.S.
Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S.