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Mexican New York

Mexican New York: Transnational Lives of New Immigrants

Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 385
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  • Book Info
    Mexican New York
    Book Description:

    Drawing on more than fifteen years of research,Mexican New Yorkoffers an intimate view of globalization as it is lived by Mexican immigrants and their children in New York and in Mexico. Robert Courtney Smith's groundbreaking study sheds new light on transnationalism, vividly illustrating how immigrants move back and forth between New York and their home village in Puebla with considerable ease, borrowing from and contributing to both communities as they forge new gender roles; new strategies of social mobility, race, and even adolescence; and new brands of politics and egalitarianism. Smith's deeply informed narrative describes how first-generation men who have lived in New York for decades become important political leaders in their home villages in Mexico. Smith explains how relations between immigrant men and women and their U.S.-born children are renegotiated in the context of migration to New York and temporary return visits to Mexico. He illustrates how U.S.-born youth keep their attachments to Mexico, and how changes in migration and assimilation have combined to transnationalize both U.S.-born adolescents and Mexican gangs between New York and Puebla.Mexican New Yorkprofoundly deepens our knowledge of immigration as a social process, convincingly showing how some immigrants live and function in two worlds at the same time and how transnationalization and assimilation are not opposing, but related, phenomena.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93860-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. 1. Transnational Life in Ethnographic Perspective
    (pp. 1-17)

    Linda’s wonder at actually being in the town I call Ticuani—a smallmunicipio(county) of less than two thousand people in southern Puebla, in the Mixteca region of Mexico—is not just an enthusiastic teenager’s response to a favorite vacation spot: it attests to Ticuani’s central place in her social world. Although she says that she cannot visit her cousins in Manhattan because it is “mad far” from her apartment in Brooklyn and her parents will not let her go, they permit her to travel more than two thousand miles with her brother or cousins (but without her parents)...

  6. 2. Dual Contexts for Transnational Life
    (pp. 18-52)

    More than two hundred young men and women dressed in white sweatshirts adorned with the image of Ticuani’s patron saint, Padre Jesús, ran across the Manhattan Bridge on a frigid January morning to the Cathedral of Saint Bernard on Fourteenth Street, following their New York City Police escorts. This 1997 run from the heart of Brooklyn to downtown Manhattan—a distance of six or seven miles—was the first enactment in New York of a pilgrimage run, or Antorcha, for Ticuanense youth, corresponding to the annual thirty-six-hour relay from the Cathedral of the Virgin in Mexico City to Ticuani. Older...

  7. 3. “Los Ausentes Siempre Presentes”: Making a Local-Level Transnational Political Community
    (pp. 53-75)

    The phraselos ausentes siempre presentes(the absent ones always present) beautifully evokes different dimensions of transnational life. As part of the New York Committee seal, stamped onto documents such as receipts for contributions to the water project, it expresses the Committee’s imagined presence in Ticuani and the joint authority it exercises with themunicipio.Yet when a municipal president says, “Los ausentes siempre presentes—sounds like a threat, no?” it represents an unwelcome external vigilance and imposition. In these different contexts the expression illustrates the dance of assertion, recognition, and resistance between the Committee and themunicipio.The Committee...

  8. 4. The Defeat of Don Victorio: Transnationalization, Democratization, and Political Change
    (pp. 76-93)

    “We are allpoblanos. . . one family, one community united!” said Melquiades Morales Flores, a PRI candidate for governor of Puebla, in a large meeting room of a hotel. He was flanked through the window by the supersized images of Times Square: a twenty-foot-tall woman wearing leopard skin, advertisements for the latest Disney movie, and screeching neon signs. He had come to New York to meet with migrant leaders as part of his ultimately successful gubernatorial campaign in 1998 and to shore up political support in the Mixteca in response to increased electoral competition.

    In Ticuani, in the...

  9. 5. Gender Strategies, Settlement, and Transnational Life in the First Generation
    (pp. 94-122)

    These women’s diametrically opposed understandings of their husbands’ absence while doing Committee work or other public work beg for explanation. Why would Doña Talia and her family come to resent Don Gerardo’s absence so intensely, and to see it as a macho self-indulgence, while Doña Selena and her family regard Don Emiliano’s absence as necessary for his public service, as a sacrifice accruing honor to him and to them as well?¹ My explanation lies in evolving differences in how the two men and their families think about what the sociologist Arlie Hochschild calls “gender ideology”—what people think men’s and...

  10. 6. “In Ticuani, He Goes Crazy”: The Second Generation Renegotiates Gender
    (pp. 123-146)

    The gender negotiations of the first generation must seem easy to their children. For the first generation, ranchero masculinity is still a dominant ideology, even if other gender practices coexist with it. But the second generation negotiates gender in three contexts: various hegemonic and non-hegemonic “Mexican” and “American” notions of masculinity and femininity, nagging generational questions of ethnic authenticity and nostalgia, and an immigrant narrative of upward mobility that they experience as an “immigrant bargain” with their parents. Hence, second-generation Mexican American boys must figure out how to become Mexican American men while trying to fit the hegemonic images of...

  11. 7. “Padre Jesús, Protect Me”: Adolescence, Religion, and Social Location
    (pp. 147-185)

    “In New York, you don’t fit in because you’re Mexican. In Ticuani, you don’t belong because you’re not Mexican enough.” This remark by Willie, a twenty-two-year-old college student who works in the finance industry, captures some of the complexity facing second-and 1.5 -generation Ticuanenses returning to Ticuani. While many in the second generation dream of returning to Ticuani, they are not always welcomed ashijos y hijas ausentes(absent sons and daughters) as their parents are. While most Ticuanenses receive them with open arms, a few see them as “tourists”;presumidos(arrogant or conceited ones);pochos,who do not belong...

  12. 8. “I’ll Go Back Next Year”: Transnational Life across the Life Course
    (pp. 186-206)

    Over time, I noticed changes in my informants’ attitudes toward Ticuani and the frequency of their visits. Meeting Alicia in Ticuani in 1999 as she crowned her successor as Queen of the Mass was quite a surprise, given how much she had hated Ticuani five years earlier. At that time she had told me she was uncomfortable there because her Spanish was not good and she missed eating at McDonald’s, though she did enjoy Ticuani parties. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Alicia had gone from disliking even going to Ticuani to seeking and gaining the highest honor it can bestow...

  13. 9. Defending Your Name: The Roots and Transnationalization of Mexican Gangs
    (pp. 207-241)

    When I returned to Ticuani in August 1998, for the first time in more than five years, the first thing I noticed was the gang graffiti. The pleasure of striding through Ticuani’s dry midday heat and being greeted by friends was disrupted by my surprise at the graffiti and thecholo,or “gangster,” dress and haircuts of many local youths. Ticuanense locals told me how the gangs had changed Ticuani, especially during the Feast in January. Violence had increased: according to local leaders, gang members had killed a local taxi driver, and some had gone to jail. Even thoughpandillas...

  14. 10. Returning to a Changed Ticuani
    (pp. 242-276)

    The quotes from Magda and Dionisio capture two sides of the experience of return to a Ticuani that has changed because of the presence ofpandilleros.Magda’s view is widely shared by her friends, a mixed group of U. S.-born second and 1 . 5 -generation “ regulars,” non–gang members whose regular return to Ticuani with their families makes them feel at home there. They describe what it means to be Mexican by saying, “We’re just normal” or “ We’re regular.” “Preppies” are a second social group to which no one admits belonging but for which everyone expresses firm...

  15. Conclusions and Recommendations
    (pp. 277-292)

    I have studied transnational life by “going where the ducks are”—by intensively studying one transnational community for a decade and a half. In more academic language, I have “sampled on the dependent variable” by focusing on a community that exhibits a great deal of transnational life. I have also attempted to do what Howard Becker says good qualitative research should: to closely follow the action for a long time, tell stories accurately, and examine more and not less of the thing under study.¹ By analyzing three substantive themes—politics, gender, and the second generation—I trace the process of...

  16. Coda: The Mexican Educational Foundation of New York
    (pp. 293-296)

    At the urging of my editor at the University of California Press, the energetic, insightful, and funny Naomi Schneider, here I describe briefly the Mexican Educational Foundation of New York (MexEd), a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. MexEd’s goals are to foster Mexican and Mexican American leadership and progress in New York by promoting educational achievement, mentorship, and positive definitions of Mexicanness. I cofounded it with Sandra Lara, a Ph.D. student at Teachers College at Columbia University (now Dr. Lara-Cinisomo and an analyst at the RAND Corporation in California). For the past several years, we have served on the organization’s board...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 297-316)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 317-350)
  19. Methodological Appendix
    (pp. 351-358)
  20. Index
    (pp. 359-375)