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New film tells the story of Latin American immigrants in Virginia

Ricardo Preve was, himself, an immigrant – arriving here after a political coup in his country. He doesn’t say why he left, but his story is the start of his new documentary – Sometime, Somewhere.

“I left Argentina in 1976 at the age of 19," he recalls. "My trip involved crossing the Atlantic on a small sailboat. It included a stop in Grenada in the West Indies where I had to sell my clothes to get food. My last captain gave me the money to buy a bus ticket to Charlottesville. There were very few Latinos those days in Central Virginia, and I found that most people extended me a warm welcome. Their comments and questions were funny. Argentina? You guys speak Portuguese, right? Or, ‘You eat a lot of spicy food, don’t you?’ My favorite was, ‘I went to school with a guy from Mexico. His name was Carlos. Do you know him?’”

Film maker Ricardo Preve migrated to Charlottesville in 1976. Now he tells the tales of others who fled their countries in Latin America.
Ricardo Preve
Film maker Ricardo Preve migrated to Charlottesville in 1976. Now he tells the tales of others who fled their countries in Latin America.

In Charlottesville he met people who worked for National Geographic and landed jobs that taught him how to make movies. Now, he’s turning his camera on other Hispanic immigrants in a very different time.

“I feel that today there is the idea that migrants should do the work –- mow the lawns, clean the offices, take care of the cooking, but they should keep their mouth shut and their gaze down, and they’re not entitled to humane treatment,” he says.

The film features stories of people who arrived here traumatized by encounters with violent gangs, wounded by thorns and barbed wire, exhausted by days of walking.

“We had to sleep in the desert, because when you pass you mostly want to pass through night, because that’s when you’re less visible, and I remember that in the night it was very cold. We couldn’t have fires, because fires attract the border patrol.”

And while they are grateful to be in the United States, Preve reports plenty of people are hostile or dishonest.

“We have met lots of people who when either Friday or the end of the month comes and they want to go get paid, the employer says, ‘No, I’m not going to pay you, and if you don’t like it you can call immigration.’ We know there are millions of people who have social security taken out of their paychecks, but they don’t have a social security number, so somebody – probably not the U.S. government -- is pocketing that money.”

And the film features experts like Washington & Lee Professor Seth Michaelson who says we should prepare for many more immigrants in the age of climate change.

“People are coming from countries of origin where life is not sustainable. Even just looking back to Hurricane Eta and Iota, that put seven and a half million people in motion.”

Preve has screenings scheduled in New York, Washington and Miami. He’s done interviews with TV stations from Latin America and plans to sell the film to a television network or streaming platform. He hopes it will begin a process of public education that leads the nation to finally craft a humane approach to immigration.

“Everybody’s talking about finding solutions to the immigration thing – mostly involving police enforcement, building walls, kicking people out. Some people think, “Oh well, immigration – you mean Texas, California?’ No, no, no. Right here in Charlottesville we have a population that’s working really hard and is not getting basic human and civil rights. Knowing about that is the first thing that I hope the film will do.”

The first stop Sometime, Somewhere is the Virginia Film Festival on October 28th.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief