The colonias of the U.S.–Mexico border form a loose network of more than 2,500 settlements, ranging in size from villages to cities, that are home to over a million people. While varying in size, all share common features: wrenching poverty, substandard housing, and public health issues approaching crisis levels. This book brings together scholars, professionals, and activists from a wide range of disciplines to examine the pressing issues of economic development, housing and community development, and public and environmental health in colonias of the four U.S.–Mexico border states.
The Colonias Reader is the first book to present such a broad overview of these communities, offering a glimpse into life in the colonias and the circumstances that allow them to continue to exist—and even grow—in persistent poverty. The contributors document the depth of existing problems in each state and describe how government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and community activists have mobilized resources to overcome obstacles to progress.
More than reporting problems and documenting programs, the book provides conceptual frameworks that tie poverty to institutional and class-based conflicts, and even challenges the very basis of colonia designations. Most of these contributions move beyond portraying border residents as hapless victims of discrimination and racism, showing instead their devotion to improving their own living conditions through grassroots organizing and community leadership.
These contributions show that, despite varying degrees of success, all colonia residents aspire to a livable wage, safe and decent housing, and basic health care. The Colonias Reader showcases many situations in which these people have organized to fulfill these ambitions and provides new insight into life along the border.
In Del OtroLado: Literacy and Migration across the U.S.-Mexico Border, author Susan V. Meyers draws on her year-long ethnographic study in Mexico and the United States to analyze the literacy practices of Mexican-origin students on both sides of the border.
Meyers begins by taking readers through the historical development of the rural Mexican town of Villachuato. Through a series of case studies spanning the decades between the Mexican Revolution and the modern-day village, Meyers explores the ever-widening gulf between the priorities of students and the ideals of the public education system. As more and more of Villachuato’s families migrate in an effort to find work in the wake of shifting transnational economic policies like NAFTA, the town’s public school teachers find themselves frustrated by spiraling drop-out rates. Meyers discovers that students often consider the current curriculum irrelevant and reject the established value systems of Mexico’s public schools. Meyers debunks the longstanding myth that literacy is tied to economic development, arguing that a “literacy contract” model, in which students participate in public education in exchange for access to increased earning potential, better illustrates the situation in rural Mexico.
Meyers next explores literacy on the other side of the border, traveling to Marshalltown, Iowa, where many former citizens of Villachuato have come to reside because of the availability of jobs for unskilled workers at the huge Swift meat-packing plant there. Here she discovers that Mexican-origin families in the United States often consider education a desirable end in itself rather than a means to an end. She argues that migration has a catalyzing effect on literacy, particularly as Mexican migrant families tend to view education as a desirable form of prestige.
Meyers reveals the history and policies that have shaped the literacy practices of Mexican-origin students, and she raises important questions about not only the obligation of the United States to educate migrant students, but also those students’ educational struggles and ways in which these difficulties can be overcome. This transnational study is essential reading for scholars, students, educators and lawmakers interested in shaping the future of educational policy.
The border region of the Sonoran Desert, which spans southern Arizona in the United States and northern Sonora, Mexico, has attracted national and international attention. But what is less discussed in national discourses is the impact of current border policies on the Native peoples of the region. There are twenty-six tribal nations recognized by the U.S. federal government in the southern border region and approximately eight groups of Indigenous peoples in the United States with historical ties to Mexico—the Yaqui, the O’odham, the Cocopah, the Kumeyaay, the Pai, the Apaches, the Tiwa (Tigua), and the Kickapoo.
Divided Peoples addresses the impact border policies have on traditional lands and the peoples who live there—whether environmental degradation, border patrol harassment, or the disruption of traditional ceremonies. Anthropologist Christina Leza shows how such policies affect the traditional cultural survival of Indigenous peoples along the border. The author examines local interpretations and uses of international rights tools by Native activists, counterdiscourse on the U.S.-Mexico border, and challenges faced by Indigenous border activists when communicating their issues to a broader public.
Through ethnographic research with grassroots Indigenous activists in the region, the author reveals several layers of division—the division of Indigenous peoples by the physical U.S.-Mexico border, the divisions that exist between Indigenous perspectives and mainstream U.S. perspectives regarding the border, and the traditionalist/nontraditionalist split among Indigenous nations within the United States. Divided Peoples asks us to consider the possibilities for challenging settler colonialism both in sociopolitical movements and in scholarship about Indigenous peoples and lands.
Among all natural resource and environmental problems between the United States and Mexico, water has been the most troublesome, with ongoing historic contests over water supply becoming superseded by new controversies over water quality. Divided Waters analyzes the politics of water management along the U.S.-Mexico border, using the case of Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora as a window on the problems and possibilities involved. The authors explore the water problems that Ambos Nogales shares with larger border communities—surface and groundwater contamination, inadequate and insecure supplies, inequitable distribution of resources, flooding, and endangered riparian habitats—considering both the physical characteristics of the water supply and the coping mechanisms of the people who make use of it. They review the prevailing confusion of laws, administrative practices, and political incentives, then recommend the design elements they believe must be included before successful improvements can occur at both the institutional and the resource management levels.
Educating Across Borders is an ethnography of the learning experiences of transfronterizxs, border-crossing students who live on the U.S.-Mexico border, their lives spanning two countries and two languages. Authors María Teresa de la Piedra, Blanca Araujo, and Alberto Esquinca examine language practices and funds of knowledge these students use as learning resources to navigate through their binational, dual language school experiences.
The authors, who themselves live and work on the border, question artificially created cultural and linguistic borders. To explore this issue, they employed participant-observation, focus groups, and individual interviews with teachers, administrators, and staff members to construct rich understandings of the experiences of transfronterizx students. These ethnographic accounts of their daily lives counter entrenched deficit perspectives about transnational learners.
Drawing on border theory, immigration and border studies, funds of knowledge, and multimodal literacies, Educating Across Borders is a critical contribution toward the formation of a theory of physical and metaphorical border crossings that ethnic minoritized students in U.S. schools must make as they traverse the educational system.
In the aspiring global cities of Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, people generate income and develop their housing informally on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Staudt analyzes women and men in low- and middle-income neighborhoods in the core an in the old and new peripheries of two cities that straddle an international border.
Residents counter national and international influences to build shelter and incomes, albeit meager. But the political machinery of both the U.S. and Mexico constrains the ability of these quintessential free traders to build political communities and organize around self-sufficient work and housing in visible ways.
Experiences at the border, along the central gateway for capital, job, and labor movement, offer insights to readers as the globalized economy spreads and engulfs the heartlands of both the U.S. and Mexico. People’s everyday victories in countering petty regulations can counter or feed the grand global hegemonies.
The U.S.-Mexico border is frequently presented by contemporary media as a violent and dangerous place. But that is not a new perception. For decades the border has been constructed as a topographic metaphor for all forms of illegality, in which an ineffable link between space and violence is somehow assumed. The sociological and cultural implications of violence have recently emerged at the forefront of academic discussions about the border. And yet few studies have been devoted to one of its most disturbing manifestations: gender violence. This book analyzes this pervasive phenomenon, including the femicides in Ciudad Juárez that have come to exemplify, at least for the media, its most extreme manifestation.
Contributors to this volume propose that the study of gender-motivated violence requires interpretive and analytical strategies that draw on methods reaching across the divide between the social sciences and the humanities. Through such an interdisciplinary conversation, the book examines how such violence is (re)presented in oral narratives, newspaper reports, films and documentaries, novels, TV series, and legal discourse. It also examines the role that the media have played in this process, as well as the legal initiatives that might address this pressing social problem.
Together these essays offer a new perspective on the implications of, and connections between, gendered forms of violence and topics such as mechanisms of social violence, the micro-social effects of economic models, the asymmetries of power in local, national, and transnational configurations, and the particular rhetoric, aesthetics, and ethics of discourses that represent violence.
Americans from radically different political persuasions agree on the need to “fix” the “broken” US immigration laws to address serious deficiencies and improve border enforcement. In Immigration Law and the US–Mexico Border, Kevin Johnson and Bernard Trujillo focus on what for many is at the core of the entire immigration debate in modern America: immigration from Mexico.
In clear, reasonable prose, Johnson and Trujillo explore the long history of discrimination against US citizens of Mexican ancestry in the United States and the current movement against “illegal aliens”—persons depicted as not deserving fair treatment by US law. The authors argue that the United States has a special relationship with Mexico by virtue of sharing a 2,000-mile border and a “land-grab of epic proportions” when the United States “acquired” nearly two-thirds of Mexican territory between 1836 and 1853.
The authors explain US immigration law and policy in its many aspects—including the migration of labor, the place of state and local regulation over immigration, and the contributions of Mexican immigrants to the US economy. Their objective is to help thinking citizens on both sides of the border to sort through an issue with a long, emotional history that will undoubtedly continue to inflame politics until cooler, and better-informed, heads can prevail. The authors conclude by outlining possibilities for the future, sketching a possible movement to promote social justice. Great for use by students of immigration law, border studies, and Latino studies, this book will also be of interest to anyone wondering about the general state of immigration law as it pertains to our most troublesome border.
Five million workers are employed in a variety of settings along the U.S.–Mexico border, yet labor market outcomes on each side often differ. U.S. workers tend to have low earnings and high unemployment compared with the rest of the country, while workers on the Mexican side of the border are often more prosperous than those in the interior. This book sheds new light on these socioeconomic differentials, along with other labor market issues affecting both sides of the border.
The contributors take up issues that dominate the current discourse— migration, trade, gender, education, earnings, and employment. They analyze labor conditions and their relationship to immigration, and also provide insight into income levels and population concentrations, the relative prosperity of Mexico’s border region, and NAFTA’s impact on trade and living conditions.
Drawing on demographic, economic, and labor data, the chapters treat topics ranging from historical context to directions for future research. They cover the importance of trade to both the United States and Mexico, salary differentials, the determinants of wages among Mexican immigrant women on the U.S. side, and the net effect of Mexican migration on the public coffers in U.S. border states. The book’s concluding policy prescriptions are geared toward improving conditions on the U.S. side without dampening the success of workers in Mexico.
Written to be equally accessible to social scientists, policy makers, and concerned citizens, this book deals with issues often overlooked in national policy discussions and can help readers better understand real-life conditions along the border. It dispels misconceptions regarding labor interdependence between the two countries while offering policy recommendations useful for improving the economic and social well-being of border residents.
The Bush administration has designated the U.S.-Mexico border “the last frontier” against potential terrorists from Latin America. Analyzing the human costs, The Last Frontier explores the effects of neoliberal policies on the border. On the one hand, neoliberal economics depend on open borders for the free flow of trade and the maintenance of a low-wage labor force. On the other, both Mexico and the United States continue to heighten surveillance mechanisms and Border Patrol forces, especially in the wake of September 11, in an attempt to close those borders.
Covering a range of disciplinary perspectives—geography, political science, anthropology, American studies, literary studies, and environmental studies—these essays contend that U.S. policies to curtail immigration and drug trafficking along the Mexican border are ineffective. George W. Bush’s call for a volunteer security force has legitimized a vigilante presence through the formation of Minutemen civilian border patrols, in addition to larger numbers of Border Patrol agents and expanded detention centers. One contributor argues that, due to the increasingly dangerous border-crossing conditions, more undocumented immigrants are remaining in the United States year-round rather than following the traditional seasonal pattern of work and returning to Mexico. Another contributor interviews drug smugglers and government officials, revealing the gap between reality and the claims of success by the U.S. government in the “war on drugs.” Focusing on the social justice movement Ni Una Mas (Not One More), one essay delves into the controversy over the unsolved murders of hundreds of young women in the border town of Ciudad Juárez and the refusal of the government to investigate these murders properly. Other essays consider instances of resistance and activism—ranging from political movements and protests by NGOs to artistic expression through alternative narratives, poetry, and photography—against the consequences of neoliberalism on the border and its populations.
Contributors. Ana M. Manzanas Calvo, Alicia Schmidt Camacho, Arturo Dávila, Sarah Hill, Jane Juffer, Laura Lewis, Alejandro Lugo, Tony Payan, Claudia Sadowski-Smith, Santiago Vaquera, Melissa Wright
Straddling an international border, the twin cities of Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora, are in many ways one community. For years the border was less distinct, with Mexicans crossing one way to visit family and friends and tourists crossing the other to roam the curio shops. But as times change, so do places like Nogales. The maquiladora industry has brought jobs, population growth, and environmental degradation to the Mexican side. A crackdown against undocumented immigrants has brought hundreds of Border Patrol agents and a 14-foot-tall steel wall to the U.S. side. Drug smuggling has brought violence to both sides. Neither Nogales will ever be the same.
In Lives on the Line, Miriam Davidson tells five true stories from these border cities to show the real-life effects that the maquiladora boom and the law enforcement crackdown have had on the people of "Ambos (Both) Nogales." Readers will meet Yolanda Sánchez, a single mother who came to work in the factories; Jimmy Teyechea, a cancer victim who became an outspoken environmental activist; Dario Miranda Valenzuela, an undocumented immigrant who was shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent; Cristina, a "tunnel kid" who aspired to flee the gang lifestyle; and Hope Torres and Tom Higgins, maquiladora managers who have made unique contributions to the community.
In sharing these stories of people transformed by love and faith, by pain and loss, Davidson relates their experiences to larger issues and shows that, although life on the border is tough, it is not without hope. Lives on the Line is an impassioned look at the changes that have swept the U.S.-Mexico border: the rising tension concerning free trade and militarization, the growing disparity between the affluent and the impoverished. At the same time, the book highlights the positive aspects of change, revealing challenges and opportunities not only for the people who live on the border but for all Americans.
Mass deportation is at the forefront of political discourse in the United States. The Shadow of the Wall shows in tangible ways the migration experiences of hundreds of people, including their encounters with U.S. Border Patrol, cartels, detention facilities, and the deportation process. Deportees reveal in their heartwrenching stories the power of family separation and reunification and the cost of criminalization, and they call into question assumptions about human rights and federal policies.
The authors analyze data from the Migrant Border Crossing Study (MBCS), a mixed-methods, binational research project that offers socially relevant, rigorous social science about migration, immigration enforcement, and violence on the border. Using information gathered from more than 1,600 post-deportation surveys, this volume examines the different faces of violence and migration along the Arizona-Sonora border and shows that deportees are highly connected to the United States and will stop at nothing to return to their families. The Shadow of the Wall underscores the unintended social consequences of increased border enforcement, immigrant criminalization, and deportation along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Alison Elizabeth Lee
Daniel E. Martínez
Prescott L. Vandervoet
There’s no denying that the U.S.–Mexico border region has changed in the past twenty years. With the emergence of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the curtailment of welfare programs, and more aggressive efforts by the United States to seal the border against undocumented migrants, the prospect of seeking a livelihood—particularly for women—has become more tenuous in the twenty-first century. In the face of the ironic juxtaposition of free trade and limited mobility, this book takes a new look at women on both sides of the border to portray them as active participants in the changing structures of life, often engaging in political struggles. The contributions—including several chapters by Mexican as well as U.S. scholars—examine environmental and socioeconomic conditions on the border as they shape and are shaped by both daily life at the local level and the global economy. The contributors focus on issues related to migration, both short- and long-term; empowerment, especially reflecting shifts in women’s consciousness in the workplace; and political and social activism in border communities. The chapters consider a broad range of topics, such as the changing gender composition of the maquiladora work force over the past decade and border women’s non-governmental organizations and political activism. In most of the studies, both sides of the border are considered to provide insights into differences created by an international boundary and similarities produced by cross-border interactions. Together, these chapters show the border region to be a dynamic social, economic, cultural, and political context in which women face both obstacles and opportunities for change—and make clear the vital role that women play in shaping the border region and their own lives. This collection builds on Susan Tiano and Vicki Ruiz’s groundbreaking volume Women on the U.S.–Mexico Border by continuing to show the human face of changes wrought by manufacturing and militarization. By illustrating the current state of social science research on gender and women’s lives in the region, it offers fresh perspectives on the material reality of women’s daily lives in this culturally and historically rich region.