F or at least the past one hundred years, the United States has exerted hegemonic influence in the region embracing Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. 1 This ascendancy has been manifested in many ways. Inter-American trade relationships have favored U.S. interests, and outside economic decision makers have strongly shaped the circum-Caribbean region's economic structure and productivity. Washington's military power, while only occasionally exercised through such blunt measures as invasion or occupation, has helped to maintain U.S. political influence as paramount. U.S. culture and consumption patterns have enjoyed prestige among both elites and masses in most nations of the Caribbean area. Many from the affluent classes (and sometimes even some poor laborers) from Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean have become familiar with the close-by United States while spending time there as workers or visitors ( Zolberg, Suhrke, and Aguayo 1989, ch. 7; Connell- Smith 1974).
Among many other effects, this hegemonic role has tended to make the United States the logical destination for twentieth- century migration from the region surrounding the Caribbean. It is not simply that people in this area have many motives for