Intimate Migrations: Gender, Family, and Illegality among Transnational Mexicans

Intimate Migrations: Gender, Family, and Illegality among Transnational Mexicans

Intimate Migrations: Gender, Family, and Illegality among Transnational Mexicans

Intimate Migrations: Gender, Family, and Illegality among Transnational Mexicans

Excerpt

Rancho San Marcos, San Luis Potosí, México. On one of my first days conducting fieldwork in rural Mexico, I found myself looking at a painted photograph of a handsome young man with chiseled features. The yellowed edges of the photo showed its age, and there was a jagged crack in the glass cover. The woman I was visiting, Ofelia, walked in and saw me studying the photo. “That is my late husband, God bless him. He was a good man. That photograph was taken when he was eighteen years old, just weeks before he left for the United States as a bracero,” she explained. She then pointed around the room to several other large photographs of family members who were living in the United States. “That is my daughter-in-law, Mario’s wife, on their wedding day.” The bride was wearing a tiara, surrounded by a cloud of white toile. “The first time I went to the United States was when I traveled to New Mexico for their wedding ceremony.” “That,” she nodded toward a huge photo of a young man in western wear, “is my son Tomás. He hasn’t been home for nearly four years. He went como mojado [without state authorization, literally “as a wetback” but without the negative connotations in English] so it is difficult for him to return to the rancho.” In the photo, Tomás was in a felt cowboy hat; at his waist, a belt buckle with two interlacing horseshoes. “For luck,” she explained, “because it is hard to be in the United States without documents.”

After a moment, she continued: “And here is my granddaughter, Lila, at her quinceañera [fifteenth birthday party] in Albuquerque.” Lila looked like a miniature bride, in a long white dress with pink silk flowers placed throughout her hair, a delicate gold cross necklace around her neck. “Today, seven of my children live in Albuquerque,” Ofelia told me as she looked at the photographs around the room. “Like their father, my sons crossed the border for the first time when they were young, in search of work to make a living. Now several of my daughters have migrated as well. I have even waded . . .

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