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Gendered Transitions

Mexican Experiences of Immigration

Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo

Publication Year: 1994

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

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

...I could not have written this book without the generous help of many people. First and foremost, I am grateful to the people in the "Oakview" community who allowed me into their private lives and histories. Not only did I learn a lot from them, but my life has been enriched by their friendship, and I regret that they must remain anonymous. As I conducted the field research, Violeta Ortega, Consuelo Sánchez...

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pp. xiii-xxiv

...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...

Table of Study Participants

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pp. xxv-xxviii

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1. Immigration, Gender, and Settlement

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pp. 1-18

...Settlement has a funny way of creeping up on immigrant workers who intend to stay only a short while. With the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, more than 2 million formerly undocumented Mexican immigrants applied for legal status, but many other Mexican immigrants and their families are staying in the United States despite their inability to secure permanent legal residence status, and in spite of their original intentions to remain only a short while...

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2. The History of Mexican Undocumented Settlement in the United States

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pp. 19-33

...Early in my research in the Oakview barrio I heard a poignant cliche: "It's not Mexicans but California that migrated to the United States." This simple statement refers to the fact that prior to 1848, Mexico included what is today the southwestern region of the United States, so that subsequent Mexican immigrants and their descendants found themselves living and working in conquered territory. In fact, one could argue that California migrated north...

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3. The Oakview Barrio

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pp. 34-52

...Mexican immigrant women and men are often referred to as "pools of immigrant labor" or as "migrant streams" or "waves" responding solely to economic currents; such phrases provide a picture which flattens the varied contexts and experiences of migration.1 This depersonalized language says little about the primary actors and why they behave as they do in the variegated drama of migration and resettlement...

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4. Gendered Transitions

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pp. 53-97

..."No, I did not want him to leave," a wife recalls of her husband's departure to go north. "I feared he would leave me and the children for another woman, but what could I do?" A young man who left his parents and siblings to seek adventure and dollars in California admits that "my parents would have liked to keep me for as long as possible on the ranch, so that I could work for their benefit. But I had to leave...

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5. Reconstructing Gender through Immigration and Settlement

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pp. 98-147

...After immigration, marriage patterns that once seemed set in stone may shift as spousal separations, conflicts, and negotiations and new living and working arrangements change the rules that organize daily life. Compared with patterns prior to migration, many of the immigrant families in this study exhibited more egalitarian gender relations in household divisions of labor, family decision-making...

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6. Women Consolidating Settlement

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pp. 148-185

...As traditional family patriarchy weakens, immigrant women assume more active public and social roles, and these activities ultimately advance their families' integration in the United States. In this chapter I examine three dimensions of women's activities outside the family, and I argue that in the aggregate, these activities anchor family settlement. Women advance settlement for their families, and in the...

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7. Gendered Immigration

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pp. 186-206

...Every day throughout California and other states, Mexican undocumented immigrant families struggle to balance work, family, and community activities. As they work long hours at their jobs, attend church and school, and relax in the park on Sundays, these women, men, and children are building strong ties to their new communities in the United States. This study set out to explain these...


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pp. 207-232


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pp. 233-254


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pp. 255-258

Production Notes

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p. 259-259

E-ISBN-13: 9780520911529
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520075139

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 1994