The Roots of Mexican Labor Migration

The Roots of Mexican Labor Migration

The Roots of Mexican Labor Migration

The Roots of Mexican Labor Migration

Synopsis

Alexander Monto looks at how labor migration flows from Mexico to the United States are directed and structured, and what changes they bring in the sending and receiving communities. He places cyclical migration in the context of historical and economic developments in Mexico and the United States, and he concludes that the circulatory movement is an element in the well-established world economic system that has endured for a hundred years.

Excerpt

International labor migration now involves some twenty million workers. Currently, the United States is host to about six million of them, most of whom are from Mexico (Brandt 1980). The Mexican-U.S. migrant circulation is currently the world's largest, involving some three million people annually (U.S. Border Patrol 1987). This circulation has attracted substantial attention in sociology, economics, health and medicine, demography, and half a dozen other related fields, yet few studies of it have been done in social anthropology. Even fewer are bipolar studies focusing on both the sending and receiving communities so that the cycle of migration can be seen as a whole. This study deals with the circulatory migration between a Mexican town with a high migration rate and one of its four main receiving towns in the United States. The structuring of the migratory flow between the two towns is taken as the general anthropological problem, and this circulatory flow also is viewed as a case in point demonstrating the main features of the larger flow between Mexico and the United States.

The sending community is a former peasant village which retains many of the classic features of peasant villages in Mexico, and yet has changed substantially. Here, the household, which is centered around one nuclear family, still directs the production of its members, though it no longer is the primary unit of production, as it continues to be for reproduction. Kinship relations remain of major importance and, along with neighborhood and friendship links, they constitute the network that recruits, routes, and houses the migrant during his or her sojourn in the United States.

The question remains why migrants regularly make the journey. An answer can be given at either the microsocial or macrosocial level. At the microsocial level, I focus on the developmental cycle of the domestic group. The domestic group, the primary reproductive group in each society, provides child nurturance . . .

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