Guadalupe in New York: Devotion and Struggle for Citizenship Rights among Mexican Immigrants

Article excerpt

Alyshia Galvez, Guadalupe in New York: Devotion and Struggle for Citizenship Rights among Mexican Immigrants. (New York: NYU Press, 2009). xiii, 256 pp., $27 paper.

Alyshia Galvez's Guadalupe in New York is an important contribution to a growing body of sociological and anthropological work devoted to immigrants and their fight for basic human rights in the United States. Galvez, a cultural anthropologist, uses interviews and observations to study the process of guadalupanismo (worship of Mexico's patron saint, Our Lady of Guadalupe) among recent Mexican immigrants in New York City. Between 2000 and 2008, Galvez gathered information on Marian worship by following members of comités guadalupanos, or social groups organized by parish, and explains her methodology in a useful appendix. Galvez argues that through these comités, undocumented Mexican immigrants engage in "political, activist activities which enhance their sense of well-being in material, lived and symbolic ways while their juridical status remains unchanged" (4). More specifically, it is Galvez's sophisticated and subtle observations on the connections between religion, politics, and transnational space that make her book a solid foundation for future ethnic studies.

Galvez's most powerful observation in her work is the interconnectivity of guadalupanismo and the fight for citizenship rights among undocumented Mexican immigrants in New York. For many of these immigrants, turning to the Virgin for help in the political struggle for a better life in America requires little thought. "Rather than a co-optation of the Virgin's image to a political cause," Galvez explains, "the assertion of Guadalupe's support of the struggle for the rights of immigrants is logical...[for] to question that she naturally supports the struggle of her devotes for rights and dignities would be to question her" (81). Rather than simply stating that Mexican immigrants use religion to advance their political goals, Galvez takes her argument one step farther by stating that guadalupanismo in America transcends politics, for when immigrants evoke the image of the Virgin for help, they are calling on her for protection and assistance in securing the most basic of human rights. Undocumented Mexican immigrants are undocumented in the eyes of lawmakers, not God. These immigrants deserve citizenship rights as children of God, forming a powerful argument for privileges based on religion rather than politics alone. Galvez's argument is essential for future sociological and anthropological works that seek to analyze and understand how immigrants of all backgrounds approach politics and activism through the lens of religion. …