THE DISENCHANTED WORLD AND
THE QUESTION OF SUCCESS
MY INVESTIGATION INTO THE LIVES of Colonia Hermosa residents asked a classical migration question: [Why do some rural migrants to the city succeed while others, and their children, do not?] I sought to uncover the particular strategies and social logics that could account for the trajectories of the lives of colonia residents over three decades in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico. I have concentrated on a comparative account of the life transitions as experienced by a group of key families with regard to two points: their sense of social place, and their sense of their own identities. I have argued that over the past three decades colonia residents have transformed their class positions through a strategic use of scarce resources, as well as through the use of a variety of symbolic and social capitals.
What are we now to make of the lives of the people who have shared their stories in this book? What conclusions can we draw from their individual and collective narratives that we can use to generally interpret the lives of the urban poor? How might the structural position of the urban poor in any developing capitalist society be helped by lessons learned in Colonia Hermosa? I would argue that across a variety of cultural spaces, people confront common problems in a globalized world. As Colonia Hermosa residents were able to create everyday practices that helped the community function and prosper, perhaps their approach can be used by and expanded upon by others. As June Nash has argued, anthropologists, students, and others working for the common good can help through creating cross-cultural comparative frameworks of analysis that in the end are good for people across the planet.1
The jumping-off point for the study was the transformation in selfidentity as expressed by my informants, who routinely said that they felt that they had successfully moved from the category of transitory