The Mexican Tapes: A Chronicle of Life Outside the Law (1986)


The Mexican Tapes is an acclaimed series of four videos which portray Louis Hock’s growing friendship and empathy with his Mexican neighbors in San Diego in the 1980s, his acceptance into their community, and an examination of their day-to-day struggles. 

Part 1 – “El Gringo”:

The first installment of The Mexican Tapes: A Chronicle of Life Outside focuses on Hock’s status in the community. At first Hock is the “outsider,” the tourist who doesn’t understand his neighbors’ jokes. It’s only months later that he becomes a close friend, travelling back to visit Mexican homes and families, and beginning to empathize with their struggles.


Part 2 – “El Rancho Grande”:

In the second installment of The Mexican Tapes, Hock begins to participate more in the family life of La Colonia, attending baptisms and helping shop for new cars. Hock interviews the white residents of the complex who resist the Mexican community, and rumor that it will soon be torn down.


Part 3 – “The Winner’s Circle and la Migra”:

As documented in The Winner’s Circle and la Migra (the emigrant), the move north brings many changes to family life, specifically mothers going to work and children learning English in school. Hock explores the fact that women often adapt more easily than the men to American life, learning English more rapidly. This becomes a source of conflict between the men and women as they compete for better-paying jobs.


Part 4 – “La Lucha”:

In La Lucha (the fight), families struggle to cope with frequent deportations and the constant threat of INS sweeps that, in the end, completely dismantle the community. Following up two years later, Hock reports their triumphs and setbacks. The video ends with hope—but no real promise—of a brighter future for those living on the unrecognized margin of society.


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