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Migrant Imaginaries

Migrant Imaginaries: Latino Cultural Politics in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 388
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  • Book Info
    Migrant Imaginaries
    Book Description:

    Winner of the 2009 Lora Romero First Book Prize from the American Studies Association2009 Choice Outstanding Academic TitleMigrant Imaginaries explores the transnational movements of Mexican migrants in pursuit of labor and civil rights in the United States from the 1920s onward. Working through key historical moments such as the 1930s, the Chicano Movement, and contemporary globalization and neoliberalism, Alicia Schmidt Camacho examines the relationship between ethnic Mexican expressive culture and the practices sustaining migrant social movements. Combining sustained historical engagement with theoretical inquiries, she addresses how struggles for racial and gender equity, cross-border unity, and economic justice have defined the Mexican presence in the United States since 1910.Schmidt Camacho covers a range of archives and sources, including migrant testimonials and songs, Amrico Parede's last published novel, The Shadow, the film Salt of the Earth, the foundational manifestos of El Movimiento, Richard Rodriguez's memoirs, narratives by Marisela Norte and Rosario Sanmiguel, and testimonios of Mexican women workers and human rights activists, as well as significant ethnographic research. Throughout, she demonstrates how Mexicans and Mexican Americans imagined their communal ties across the border, and used those bonds to contest their noncitizen status. Migrant Imaginaries places migrants at the center of the hemisphere's most pressing concerns, contending that border crossers have long been vital to social change.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-9007-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    This is a book shaped by struggle, by the efforts of migrant people to assert their full humanity in border crossings that confer on them the status of the alien, the illegal, the refuse of nations. The women, men, and children who traverse the boundary between Mexico and the United States have rarely conformed to the usual trajectory of immigration, of leaving behind one national polity to assume a settled existence as citizens of another. “Nos ha tocado ser gente que no es de aquí ni de allá” [It has been our lot to be people who are neither from...

  6. PART I: Border Crossers in Mexican American Cultural Politics

    • CHAPTER 1 These People Are Not Aliens: Transborder Solidarity in the Shadow of Deportation
      (pp. 21-61)

      By the time Juanita Vásquez and her family boarded the train to begin their movement north as itinerant workers in the 1920s, the migratory circuit linking Mexico and the United States was well entrenched. Both countries relied on the transnational movement of Mexican workers, contracted into a labor force composed of both Mexican Americans and Mexican nationals. Emigration reached a new peak during the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), but thousands of migrants had established patterns of seasonal and long-term settlements across the southwestern United States from the 1890s onward. Historians estimate that 1.5 million Mexicans entered the United States during...

    • CHAPTER 2 Migrant Modernisms: Racialized Development under the Bracero Program
      (pp. 62-111)

      The advent of World War II intensified and transformed the longstanding economic and social ties between the United States and Mexico. The migratory circuit between the two countries gained new prominence in the wartime economy of the United States. This chapter examines the cultural politics of the Bracero Program, a joint venture of the U.S. and Mexican governments, which sought to bring the vast transnational labor market under full state regulation. This labor loan spanned the years 1942 to 1964 and brought hundreds of thousands of Mexican contract workers to over two dozen states for seasonal jobs in agriculture and...

    • CHAPTER 3 No Constitution for Us: Class Racism and Cold War Unionism
      (pp. 112-151)

      The image of Luisa Moreno, the Guatemalan-born labor organizer and founder of El Congreso de Pueblos que Hablan Español [Congress of Spanish-Speaking People], author of “Caravans of Sorrow” (discussed in chapter 1), stands watch over the migrant City of Angels. Her portrait graces the world’s largest mural,The Great Wall of Los Angeles, a massive cover for a flood-control channel in the San Fernando Valley.³ The visual narrative of the mural chronicles the long sweep of California history, from the first emergence of animal life out of the sea in prehistoric times to the multiethnic spectacle of the 1984 Olympics....

    • CHAPTER 4 Bordered Civil Rights: Migrants, Feminism, and the Radical Imagination in El Movimiento Chicano
      (pp. 152-192)

      “At some point the people themselves must define their reality,” wrote Elizabeth Martínez in a letter to theNew York Review of Booksdated February 12, 1970. Martínez, then editor ofEl Grito del Norte,a prominent newspaper of the Chicana/o civil-rights movement, had dispatched an exasperated corrective to a review article devoted to books about Mexican Americans and the land-rights movement in New Mexico. In 1967, members of the Alianza Federal de Mercedes, led by Reies López Tijerina, had raided the Rio Arriba County Courthouse of Tierra Amarilla to demand the restitution of historical land grants to the descendants...

    • CHAPTER 5 Tracking the New Migrants: Richard Rodriguez and Liberal Retrenchment
      (pp. 193-234)

      With this grotesque gesture, the Chicano essayist Richard Rodriguez revisits Octavio Paz’sLabyrinth of Solitude(1961) in a collection of autobiographical essays that explore the cultural and political distance inscribed in the Mexico-U.S. border.³ Published a decade after his 1982 memoirHunger of Memoryand Lorna Dee Cervantes’sEmplumada(1981), Rodriguez’sDays of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father(1992) inaugurates a new self, the atravesado—a border crosser—not undocumented or of the Chicana/o underclass but a middleclass, disaffected intellectual.⁴ Rodriguez commemorated the quincentennial of Columbus’s arrival on American shores with a personal memoir of the European conquest....

  7. PART II: Border Crossings:: Frontiers of New Social Conflict

    • CHAPTER 6 Narrative Acts: Fronteriza Stories of Labor and Subjectivity
      (pp. 237-282)

      María Guadalupe Torres Martínez narrated her life of labor for the 1995 Global Tribunal on Accountability for Women’s Human Rights, in Huariou, China. She represented the global industrial workforce that had radically altered the social worlds of Asian, Latin American, and African women over the course of three decades. Torres’s testimony on behalf of the Comité Fronterizo de Obreras [Border Committee of Women Workers] contributed to the United Nations–sponsored global campaign to expand human-rights protections for women and counter sexual and labor exploitation, human trafficking, and gender violence worldwide. The tribunal formed part of the United Nations Fourth World...

    • CHAPTER 7 Migrant Melancholia: Emergent Narratives of the Border Crossing
      (pp. 283-313)

      On May 10, 1948, Concepción Zapata presented her retablo to the Santísima Virgen de San Juan de los Lagos as a testament to the saint’s protection during her sojourn in the United States.³ The retablo, or votive painting, is a popular form of devotion that renders compensation for the miraculous intercession of the patron saint. The paintings, rendered in oil paint on wood or tin, typically depict an individual reckoning with a personal ordeal. The votive practice records a private act of supplication and gives witness to the person’s deliverance from illness or danger. For Mexican migrants, the retablo combines...

  8. Afterword: A través de la línea/Across the Line
    (pp. 314-318)

    This book had its origin in my own initiations into the migrant imaginary. I grew up in a city without Mexicans, and I sometimes thought that my mother brought every Mexican person passing through into our Philadelphia home. Her long labors over brilliant piñatas for our birthdays figured the many pains that she took to nourish a Mexican childhood for my sister and me from the distance of the northeastern United States. I had no idea that I was living on the verge of a new exodus from Latin America, one that would reanimate our own latinidad within a broader...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 319-360)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 361-374)
    (pp. 375-375)