East of Salinas

East of Salinas

December 28, 2015


Laura Pacheco and Jackie Mow

A bright student and dedicated teacher — both the sons of migrant workers — struggle for a better future.


About the Documentary

East of Salinas takes us to the heart of California’s “Steinbeck Country,” the Salinas Valley, to meet a bright boy and his dedicated teacher — both sons of migrant farm workers. With parents who are busy working long hours in the fields, third grader Jose Ansaldo often turns to his teacher, Oscar Ramos, for guidance. But Jose is undocumented; he was born in Mexico. Like many other migrant children, he is beginning to understand the situation — and the opportunities that may be lost to him through no fault of his own.

East of Salinas follows Jose and Oscar over three years: the boy is full of energy, smarts, and potential, while his teacher is determined to give back to a new generation of migrant children.

Many of the students that enter Oscar’s third grade class at Sherwood Elementary School in Salinas have never been to the beach, even though it’s only twenty miles away. Their parents work from sunup to sundown. They live in cramped apartments in neighborhoods plagued by gang violence. The kids take on the day- to-day stresses of their parents: making ends meet, dealing with acute health issues, fearing deportation. In the face of these challenges, Oscar gives his student’s access to a world that often seems beyond their reach.

Jose is one of Oscar’s most gifted students. Despite having moved between seven different schools in three years he still excels in math. But Oscar can only do so much. For Jose, a student with such promise, East of Salinas demonstrates the cruelty of circumstance — a cruelty that touches on the futures of millions of undocumented kids in America.

The Filmmakers

Laura Pacheco

Laura Pacheco is an award-winning filmmaker, trained anthropologist, and media activist. She likes to take on big issues such as public health, justice, and the environment using personal narrative to do the storytelling. Many of her projects use film to encourage conversation. In the Emmy Award-winning series Rx for Survival (PBS), she followed a young woman dying of drug resistant TB in the slums of Lima, Peru. In Kentucky, she followed evangelical Christians protesting mountaintop removal in Renewal, a film on faith and the environment. In the US, she worked with MoveOn.org to create a film and animation series that questioned the changing roles of motherhood in America. Her films have taken her to the jungles of Guatemala, the rivers of West Africa, and to the tops of the Himalayas and have been shown on PBS, Discovery, The National Geographic Channel, international climate talks, and in classrooms around the world.

Jackie Mow

Jackie Mow began her career producing news in France, chasing ambulances for TV news in New Mexico, and reporting for the BBC in Boston. Passionate about science and education, she eventually landed a job at NOVA, the PBS flagship science series. She went on to produce and direct for National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, and PBS Kids. She made films with a great diversity of subjects: the dog genome, Arctic dinosaurs, tunnel engineering, and more. Then she worked on World in the Balance, a NOVA film about population policy that took her to a Nairobi slum. There she profiled a young woman with HIV who was caring for her five orphaned siblings. She went on to work on several projects exploring the psychology of adolescent girls and women including A Girl's Life, a documentary focusing on personal stories of cyber-bullying, violence, and body image.

Full Credits

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Join the Discussion

What does America lose when children of immigrants aren’t granted a chance at the American Dream? Do you know any teachers like Oscar who have similar experiences?


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