The heartbreaking and beautifully shot documentary Romántico follows Carmelo Sanchez, an undocumented mariachi musician, through the Mission District of San Francisco, where he sings to tables of drunken white people ("We like happy" one says, making a vague request for mood music, "like, happy romantic") and through three rough and sorrowful years. Like most people that cross the US/Mexico border illegally, Sanchez came for work, and he gets it in Mexican restaurants, where he sings some of the saddest, heaviest lyrics I've ever heard to smiling, margarita-sucking honkies, and then goes back to his seven-person squat, where he sleeps in a homemade pup tent in a crowded room decorated with nude pinups, saint candles, and pictures of Jesus.
Most of Sanchez's money goes back to his family in Mexico, a family he hasn't seen in three years and isn't sure when—or if—he'll see again. The border crossing is referred to often here, the fear of going back, the trials suffered in the journey, and how a lot of people who make it across will never come home.
Shit gets worse when Sanchez's diabetic mother in Salvatierra becomes sick and he has to give up regular work to cross the border and tend to her. Worse than that, though, is the trip back to the US.
Being "poor" in hipsterland Portland is bullshit compared to the battles fought everywhere by people like Carmelo Sanchez. Still, he doesn't complain. You don't hear any "We can't go to that bar. PBR's two bucks there!" whining. Instead he moves stoically through a classically Sisyphean journey, telling the camera, "God makes me, and I make do." And he does.