Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Intimate Migrations

Intimate Migrations: Gender, Family, and Illegality among Transnational Mexicans

Deborah A. Boehm
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 188
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Intimate Migrations
    Book Description:

    In her research with transnational Mexicans, Deborah A. Boehm has often asked individuals: if there were no barriers to your movement between Mexico and the United States, where would you choose to live? Almost always, they desire the freedom to come and go. Yet the barriers preventing such movement are many. Because of the United States' rigid immigration policies, Mexican immigrants often find themselves living long distances from family members and unable to easily cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Transnational Mexicans experience what Boehm calls intimate migrations, flows that both shape and are structured by gendered and familial actions and interactions, but are always defined by the presence of the U.S. state. Intimate Migrations is based on over a decade of ethnographic research, focusing on Mexican immigrants with ties to a small, rural community in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi and several states in the U.S. West. By showing how intimate relations direct migration, and by looking at kin and gender relationships through the lens of illegality, Boehm sheds new light on the study of gender and kinship, as well as understandings of the state and transnational migration.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8985-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction: De Ambos Lados/From Both Sides
    (pp. 1-8)

    Rancho San Marcos, San Luis Potosí, México.On one of my first days conducting fieldwork in rural Mexico, I found myself looking at a painted photograph of a handsome young man with chiseled features. The yellowed edges of the photo showed its age, and there was a jagged crack in the glass cover. The woman I was visiting, Ofelia, walked in and saw me studying the photo. “That is my late husband, God bless him. He was a good man. That photograph was taken when he was eighteen years old, just weeks before he left for the United States as...

  5. 1 Placing Intimate Migrations
    (pp. 9-28)

    “My husband must migrate soon . . . he needs to join his brothers on the other side.” As we spoke, Mariela was in her home in the rancho, preparing the midday meal. The kitchen was small and tidy—the concrete floor had just been mopped and the scent of bleach was strong. In one corner, there was a bright yellow stove and a dishwashing station, and in the other, a refrigerator that had not been running for nearly two days since the power had gone out. Mariela is young, in her late twenties, with three children, ages ten, five,...


    • 2 Mitad Allá, Mitad Aquí/Half There, Half Here
      (pp. 31-52)

      In an interview at the dining room table of her Albuquerque home, a former ESL and U.S. citizenship student, Lucía (see Introduction—articulated the experience of being part of a transnational family. “I think that I am divided,” she explained. “I consider Mexico my home, but I think of my home as [the United States] because here I have had many opportunities and this is where I live. So I am confused when I think about home . . . I think of home as half there, half here [mitad allá, mitad aquí] . . . half in Mexico and...

    • 3 Family “Reunification”
      (pp. 53-68)

      In a room filled with colorful balloons and the remains of apiñata,the mood was, for the most part, celebratory. The guest of honor, a three-year-old girl in a cloud of white taffeta, was opening her gifts, relishing an enormous heartshaped lollipop. Although a crowd of family and friends was gathered around the birthday girl, another smaller grouping was in the kitchen, speaking in hushed voices and comforting Dulce, whose husband, Francisco, had been deported the previous week after a raid at his workplace. “We will find a solution,” Dulce’s brother told me with conviction. “But this is a...


    • 4 ¡Ya Soy Hombre y Mujer!/Now I Am a Man and a Woman!
      (pp. 71-90)

      On a hot, dusty spring afternoon in San Marcos, Rosa sat on her concrete living room floor, with her daughter and two of her sons, sorting through beans in preparation for planting. Their hands moved quickly, building a mound of lime green and separating out some shriveled beans and tossing them aside. Two burlap sacks of beans were propped up against a loveseat; one bag of beans was already sorted and one was filled with beans yet to be “cleaned.” As she worked, Rosa recounted how her life had changed since her husband had gone to the United States three...

    • 5 Gendered Borderlands
      (pp. 91-108)

      “We were hiding in the bushes . . . it was the middle of the night. We were there for what seemed like hours, with border patrol helicopters circling overhead. I’ll never forget that night.” José was describing his first and only trip north. Like other men from his town, he had gone at a young age—he was nineteen at the time. He traveled with several men from the rancho, including a friend and two cousins. Now in his forties, José recalled the night that had been, as he stated, life-altering. The young men had gone by bus to...


    • 6 Por Mis Hijos/For My Children
      (pp. 111-126)

      Early one morning, in Ciudad Juárez, on the U.S.-Mexico border, three young Mexican children—three, five, and six years old—waited with their grandmother in a relative’s home on the outskirts of the city. They had been apart from their mother, Susana, for more than two years, and had not seen or heard from their father since he had migrated to Los Angeles three years earlier. Susana described to me years later that she had migrated north“por mis hijos”—meaning both “formy children” and “becauseof my children”—out of necessity to support her family, a common experience...

    • 7 Here–Not Here
      (pp. 127-142)

      I spent an afternoon in Mexico with a friend, Liliana, as she cared for a chaotic house full of children. They ran back and forth between the living room where we were talking and a dusty courtyard filled with goats and chickens. “Comeniños,” she called to the two smallest of the group. “I have someone for you to meet.” Liliana introduced me to her grandsons, Héctor and Claudio, aged two and five. “They have been here for nearly a year,” Liliana explained. “My son and daughter-in-law—they aremojados,as you know—and so it is safer for the...

  9. Conclusion: Ni de Aquí, Ni de Allá/From Neither Here nor There
    (pp. 143-148)

    “I wander about . . . I am from neither here nor there [ni de aquí, ni de allá]!” Ofelia stated emphatically, and then she began to laugh. Ofelia was recounting her many migrations between Mexico and the United States, and the bureaucratic process through which she was attempting to secure U.S. permanent residency. She had just returned to the rancho from Albuquerque where she had filed necessary paperwork for residency through her eldest son. When we spoke, she was waiting for her appointment to be scheduled, and in the meantime, she had been assigned an identification number and documents...

  10. Postscript: Caught
    (pp. 149-152)

    As Gerardo sat at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), he wondered why the renewal of his auto registration would take so much time. Gerardo had heard that wait times could be long at this office, so he stayed put. But after several hours, five ICE agents appeared, arrested Gerardo, and took him into custody, first at a county jail and then at a federal immigration detention center hours away from his home. At the time of the arrest, Gerardo had lived in the United States for nearly two decades without papers, after migrating as a teenager. He had children...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 153-154)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 155-170)
  13. Index
    (pp. 171-177)
  14. About the Author
    (pp. 178-178)