Academic journal article Diálogos Latinoamericanos

Negotiating Membership in a Mexican Transnational Community. A Study of North American Immigrants in a Mexican Border Town

Academic journal article Diálogos Latinoamericanos

Negotiating Membership in a Mexican Transnational Community. A Study of North American Immigrants in a Mexican Border Town

Article excerpt

This article seeks to shed light on new formations of citizenship and political transnationalism in a Mexican town in the Mexican - US border region. We analyze how a North American immigrant group as a new actor forms part of the civil society and the implications that networks forged by this group have for the nature of citizenship. The article argues that we are in need of a more nuanced account of the limits and possibilities for understanding transnational citizenship. The North American immigrant group recognizes the continuing significance of the nation state (US), however they are flexible in negotiating the practices and rights of citizenship across borders. They must accommodate or resist, as they attempt to politically construct new spaces for practicing citizenship across borders. Thereby the article rejects both nationalist and post-nationalist essentialisms and focuses on the real social differences in order to capture the social space of the changing nature of transnational citizenship.

Key words: citizenship, membership, North American immigrants, transnationalism, social space

As in several parts of Latin America also in Mexico there is a renewed focus on the traditional perception of citizenship, in which political identity and membership are congruent with state territory. However, this model is increasingly unable to resolve the contradictions created by the global migration. The international migration thus manifests the function of citizenship as a mechanism of inclusion/exclusion, however the transnational perspective makes it necessary to rethink the concept of citizenship and membership. Modem politics and citizenship have been organized around the coincidence of citizenship rights and boundaries of states (Dagnino 2005; Itzigsohn 2000). However, a wide range of empirical trends do raise questions about the nation- state-based approach to the concept of citizenship. This article incorporates recent findings on how a North American immigrant community in a Mexican town in the Mexican - US border region negotiates its practices and rights of membership across borders in order to create a distinct social space; recreating a different vision of the society they want to be members of. It asserts how this new actor forms part of the civil society, with focus on the political space and the implications that networks forged by this group have for the nature of citizenship. It explores how this group constructs its membership in the community being only North American citizens and without any wish to become Mexicans or obtain dual citizenship.

The article focuses on the group's engagement in types of formal crossborder arrangements that sustain three non-profit organisations founded by the group of North American immigrants in order to solve some of the social problems in the Mexican community where they reside. However, we suggest that these also generate non- formalized developments in the notion of citizenship. Thus, the focus is on domains outside that formal apparatus of citizenship as an institution and in that sense akin to informal citizenship as far as the institution is concerned. The components are categorized in terms of identities, practices and locations for the enactments of citizenship.

First, we describe three organisations, all of them nonprofit organisations founded by North American immigrants. The first two are charity organisations: Amigos de Educación and Las Comadres, which are both legally registered as nonprofit organisations in the United States. The third is the History Club, which focuses on collecting historical material about the town. We perceive these organisations as a visible part of the intention to create a power knowledge venue for the immigrant group. However, the explicit objective for these transnational organisations is to solve social problems and to create well-being of everyone. We suggest though that how they operate and how they solve those local problems do not pave the way for lessening inequality but empowers the North American immigrants as a group and provides them with a type of membership of the community. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.