Gendered Transitions: Mexican Experiences of Immigration

Gendered Transitions: Mexican Experiences of Immigration

Gendered Transitions: Mexican Experiences of Immigration

Gendered Transitions: Mexican Experiences of Immigration

Synopsis

The momentous influx of Mexican undocumented workers into the United States over the last decades has spurred new ways of thinking about immigration. Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo's incisive book enlarges our understanding of these recently arrived Americans and uncovers the myriad ways that women and men recreate families and community institutions in a new land.

Hondagneu-Sotelo argues that people do not migrate as a result of concerted household strategies, but as a consequence of negotiations often fraught with conflict in families and social networks. Migration and settlement transform long-held ideals and lifestyles. Traditional patterns are reevaluated, and new relationships--often more egalitarian--emerge. Women gain greater personal autonomy and independence as they participate in public life and gain access to both social and economic influence previously beyond their reach.

Bringing to life the experiences of undocumented immigrants and delineating the key role of women in newly established communities, Gendered Transitions challenges conventional assumptions about gender and migration. It will be essential reading for demographers, historians, sociologists, and policymakers.

"I've opened my eyes. Back there, they say 'no.' You marry, and no, you must stay home. Here, it's different. You marry, and you continue working. Back in Mexico, it's very different. There is very much machismo in those men."--A Mexican woman living in the United States

Excerpt

On a weekday evening in November 1986, I attended a public forum held at a community center where I’d once worked. Over three hundred people, adults and children, had crammed into the multipurpose room to learn about the then-recently passed Immigration Reform and Control Act. the audience sat on folding chairs or stood in the aisles and back corridors, listening attentively and murmuring among themselves the questions for which they had come seeking answers. Would they qualify for la amnistía, the much-publicized but as yet poorly understood amnesty-legalization program, and could they confidently expect to get their “papers” through this program? What types of documents would they need to prove their history of undocumented residence and work in the United States, and how should they go about gathering them? What were the consequences if they did not meet the criteria for legalization? Or worse, what if submitted applications were rejected by the Immigration and Naturalization Service? Would they or their family members then face deportation? Would employer sanctions leave them jobless and without an income?

On that evening I accepted an invitation to join a small, grass-roots community group that was forming to deal with these questions, and during the next year and a half I immersed myself, as an activist and as a researcher, into family and community life in this barrio. the women, men, and children who came to the multipurpose room that November evening expressed the aspirations and anxieties shared by many other Mexican immigrants who, without the benefit of legal status, had set down roots in other communities in California and elsewhere in the United States. I conducted this study because I wanted to find out why . . .

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