By Andrea Gutierrez
» Originally published in Bitch (Summer 2016, no. 71)
Don’t Tell Anyone (No le digas a nadie) Director: Mikaela Shwer Portret Films
“No le digas a nadie,” Angy Rivera’s mother would warn her about their undocumented immigration status. Don’t tell anyone. In the documentary of the same name, Angy Rivera chafes against this advice at a time when many of her undocumented peers are doing the same. “I started seeing things differently,” she says.
Brought from Columbia to the United States by her mother when she was three years old, Angy is now a college student in New York City. Unlike her three younger siblings who were born in the United States, Angy lives in a constant state of hyper vigilance; her status is never far from her mind. Yet in 2010, two years before the passage of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), she gets involved in a leadership program with other undocumented youth and takes the bold step of making her status public, even while her mother worries it could lead to Angy’s, and perhaps her own, deportation. And because her undocumented status makes her ineligible to get state or federal aid for college, Rivera launches an online crowdfunding campaign. The leap of faith pays off: When her story is picked up by local media and a stranger offers to cover her tuition, Rivera recognizes the power she holds to change her future by simply speaking out.
At its core, Don’t Tell Anyone is about the cost of silence for undocumented immigrants, in particular for women and girls. It’s the same fear that kept Rivera from telling anyone about being sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend after arriving in the United States, the same violence and injustice that her mother sought to escape when she left Colombia. But as she gets more involved as an immigrant-rights activist, and more vocal about being undocumented—she launches an advice column and YouTube channel, “Ask Angy,” and becomes a fixture at protests—the chasm between mother and daughter widens as each questions the other’s priorities.
Mikaela Shwer’s film is a rich, engaging portrait; Angy is bright, fired-up, and not likely to quiet down anytime soon. We wouldn’t want her to, either. ☀