Mexican Women and the Other Side of Immigration: Engendering Transnational Ties

Mexican Women and the Other Side of Immigration: Engendering Transnational Ties

Mexican Women and the Other Side of Immigration: Engendering Transnational Ties

Mexican Women and the Other Side of Immigration: Engendering Transnational Ties


Weaving narratives with gendered analysis and historiography of Mexicans in the Midwest,Mexican Women and the Other Side of Immigrationexamines the unique transnational community created between San Ignacio Cerro Gordo, Jalisco, and Detroit, Michigan, in the last three decades of the twentieth century, asserting that both the community of origin and the receiving community are integral to an immigrant's everyday life, though the manifestations of this are rife with contradictions.

Exploring the challenges faced by this population since the inception of the Bracero Program in 1942 in constantly re-creating, adapting, accommodating, shaping, and creating new meanings of their environments, Luz Mar a Gordillo emphasizes the gender-specific aspects of these situations. While other studies of Mexican transnational identity focus on social institutions, Gordillo's work introduces the concept of transnational sexualities, particularly the social construction of working-class sexuality. Her findings indicate that many female San Ignacians shattered stereotypes, transgressing traditionally male roles while their husbands lived abroad. When the women themselves immigrated as well, these transgressions facilitated their adaptation in Detroit. Placed within the larger context of globalization,Mexican Women and the Other Side of Immigrationis a timely excavation of oral histories, archival documents, and the remnants of three decades of memory.


Afternoon sunlight lit the main avenue of San Ignacio Cerro Gordo as Carmen waited for the sign to begin the procession. She was wearing a formal black dress trimmed with delicate white lace along the plunging neckline. Her hair, perfectly done, was held up with an ornate black hairpin. Standing next to Carmen was her fiancé, Roberto, wearing a dark gray suit. Together they held a magnificent painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe, their family’s contribution to the local Catholic church. Immediately behind Carmen and Roberto stood a young woman, also dressed in formal attire, proudly holding aloft a sign proclaiming “DETROIT.” Hundreds of immigrants lined up behind the sign to participate in the celebration they had been awaiting all year.

The purpose of the procession was twofold: to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico and of San Ignacio, and to celebrate the return of the town’s immigrants, making their yearly visits from the United States. the town of San Ignacio celebrates its fiestas patronales (patron saint festivities) each year during the last week of January. Traditionally a religious ceremony, the festivities now also serve as an elaborate welcome for los hijos ausentes—the town’s “absent sons and daughters,” most of whom are members of the large working-class San Ignacian colony in Detroit.

The regional bishop joined forces with several local priests to orchestrate the week-long celebrations. There were several processions each day, celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe and the many patron saints of nearby towns. They included special parades for young people, children, business owners, beauty queens, married couples, and even single women and single men. Father Ignacio Ramos Puga, the local priest and main organizer of the festivities, had carefully selected most of the participants who took on significant roles in the parades. Being chosen to be a character in one of the biblical scenarios represented on the intricately decorated custom-built trucks was an honor.

The celebration also served as a reminder of the economic and social . . .

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