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Return to Aztlan

Return to Aztlan: The Social Process of International Migration from Western Mexico

Douglas S. Massey
Rafael Alarcón
Jorge Durand
Humberto González
Copyright Date: 1987
Pages: 354
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  • Book Info
    Return to Aztlan
    Book Description:

    Return to Aztlananalyzes the social process of international migration through an intensive study of four carefully chosen Mexican communities. The book combines historical, anthropological, and survey data to construct a vivid and comprehensive picture of the social dynamics of contemporary Mexican migration to the United States.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91005-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    D. M., R. A., J. D. and H. G.
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    If you drive up the Harbor Freeway from San Pedro to Los Angeles and take the exit for the University of Southern California, you will come to an intersection at the bottom of the ramp. Turn left, and you enter an all-American world of college fraternities and sororities. Turn right, and you enter Mexico. Except for the houses themselves, which are modest, pre–World War II wood frame bungalows, the neighborhood is much the same as any working-class neighborhood of Guadalajara. Parked cars and vans dot the curbsides, and children run through the streets chattering excitedly to one another in...

  5. 2 Study Design
    (pp. 10-21)

    Migration between Mexico and the United States is a salient topic that has attracted the attention of social scientists from a variety of disciplines. It has been examined from many angles with the use of widely different data sources and diverse methodological approaches. Anthropologists have analyzed ethnographic information collected in Mexican migrant communities (Gamio 1930; Taylor 1932; Wiest 1973; Shadow 1979; Reichert 1979; Dinerman 1982). Sociologists, economists, and political scientists have studied sending communities from a quantitative perspective (Cornelius 1978; Reichert and Massey 1979, 1980; Mines 1981; Stuart and Kearney 1981; Roberts 1982). Other quantitatively oriented scholars have made productive...

  6. 3 A Profile of the Four Communities
    (pp. 22-38)

    As mentioned in the last chapter, the four study communities are located in western Mexico, the traditional source region for migration to the United States. This region includes the states of Jalisco, Michoacán, Zacatecas, Colima, Aguascalientes, Nayarit, and Guanajuato (see map, fig. 3.1). Historically, these states have made up an integrated regional economy held together by strong sociat economic, and cultural ties centered in Guadalajara. Surveys indicate that between half and three-quarters of all Mexican migrants come from these states and between a quarter and a half conte from Michoacán and Jalisco alone (Bustamante 1984; Jones 1984).

    Altamira lies in...

  7. 4 Historical Development of International Migration
    (pp. 39-109)

    Today’s massive movement between Mexico and the United States has its roots in the late nineteenth century, when political and economic developments in each country produced conditions favorable to international migration. Mexican development policies created a highly mobile mass of impoverished rural workers, and in the United States integration of the southwestern states into the national economy generated a sustained demand for low-wage labor. The connection between these complementary conditions was the railroads, which made economic growth possible and provided an inexpensive, quick, and reliable means for the international transfer of workers.

    In 1872 a young general named Porfirio Díaz...

  8. 5 Current Migration Patterns
    (pp. 110-138)

    Chapter 4 gave a historical description of the development of international migration; the present chapter focuses on contemporary patterns. Using quantitative data gathered in the four Mexican communities, it presents a snapshot of the migration process in the years immediately prior to fieldwork. It depicts the prevalence of international migration in each community and the socioeconomic background of U.S. migrants as of 1980–1982. This analysis provides a set of standard statistics against which other studies of Mexican migration can be compared. Although the chapter is important in documenting the current context of migration and providing a benchmark for other...

  9. 6 The Social Organization of Migration
    (pp. 139-171)

    Our historical review of U.S. migration showed four very different communities gradually developing a common tradition of international out-migration. Over the years, a growing number of families from a continuously widening variety of social backgrounds was drawn into the migrant stream, until U.S. migration touched virtually all sectors of society. The emergence of mass migration during the 1970s was made possible only by the prior development of a complex social structure that supported and encouraged it. This chapter undertakes a detailed analysis of that social structure, focusing on the organization and operation of migrant networks in the four communities. Using...

  10. 7 Migration and the Household Economy
    (pp. 172-215)

    Thus far, we have made only passing reference to the role that migration plays in the household economy. With the development of extensive migrant networks, however, employment within the United States has come within reach of virtually all households in the four communities. In adapting to changing economic circumstances, families always have the option of sending someone to work in the United States. When family needs change as a result of childbirth, illness, or misfortune, the household budget can always be supplemented with U.S. earnings. In formulating a strategy for family maintenance or improvement, therefore, international migration is an ever-present...

  11. 8 The Socioeconomic Impact of Migration in Mexico
    (pp. 216-252)

    The widespread movement of migrants to the United States naturally affects the internal life of Mexican communities. The large volume of remittance dollars flowing into towns and neighborhoods and the periodic absence of productive family members inevitably affect patterns of socioeconomic organization. The profundity of change depends, of course, on how long international migration has been occurring and on the number of migrants involved. Among the four communities under study, Chamitlán provides the best opportunity to observe migration’s effects since it has a longer and more extensive history of migration than the others.

    The subject of the impact of international...

  12. 9 Integration in the United States
    (pp. 253-284)

    We have already described the formation of U.S. daughter communities as an important step in the maturation of migrant networks. As these communities develop over time, they anchor the networks more firmly to particular sources of U.S. employment and channel migration to increasingly specific points of destination in the United States. The development of these daughter communities, in turn, reflects larger processes of integration that engage migrants as they experience life abroad.

    The integration and settlement of Mexican migrants in the United States are not recent phenomena. The first migrants from Altamira and Chamitlán settled in the United States during...

  13. 10 Principles of International Migration
    (pp. 285-314)

    The foregoing chapters paint a general picture of international migration as a dynamic social process. Mexican migration to the United States originally occurred as a result of social, economic, and political transformations that altered relations of production in both countries; over time, however, it became institutionalized and acquired a momentum of its own. The emergence of migrant networks put employment in the United States within reach of virtually all segments of society, and international migration became an integral part of household survival strategies, widely seen as a basic socioeconomic resource to be employed during critical phases of the life cycle,...

  14. 11 Conclusions
    (pp. 315-322)

    The four communities considered in this study were chosen to provide a comparative basis for analyzing the social process of Mexican migration to the United States. Two were rural-agrarian towns, and two were urban-industrial communities, ranging in size from a few thousand to several million. Altamira was a town of small property holders and sharecroppers who farmed their own plots, while Chamitlán was one of landless laborers employed by large farmers and agribusinesses. Santiago was an industrial town of skilled and semiskilled factory workers, and San Marcos was a working-class neighborhood of Guadalajara with a diverse urban work force.


  15. References
    (pp. 323-332)
  16. Index
    (pp. 333-337)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 338-338)