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Intimate Migrations

Gender, Family, and Illegality among Transnational Mexicans

Deborah Boehm

Publication Year: 2012

In her research with transnational Mexicans, Deborah A. Boehm has often asked individuals: if there were no barriers to your movement between Mexico and the United States, where would you choose to live? Almost always, they desire the freedom to “come and go.” Yet the barriers preventing such movement are many. Because of the United States’ rigid immigration policies, Mexican immigrants often find themselves living long distances from family members and unable to easily cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Transnational Mexicans experience what Boehm calls “intimate migrations,” flows that both shape and are structured by gendered and familial actions and interactions, but are always defined by the presence of the U.S. state.

Intimate Migrations is based on over a decade of ethnographic research, focusing on Mexican immigrants with ties to a small, rural community in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí and several states in the U.S. West. By showing how intimate relations direct migration, and by looking at kin and gender relationships through the lens of illegality, Boehm sheds new light on the study of gender and kinship, as well as understandings of the state and transnational migration.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. xi-xiv

As a child, I was often shown a photograph of my grandmother and her family—immigrants from Macedonia—taken in the early twentieth century when my grandmother was just four years old. The family is gathered together, staring at the camera with serious expressions, a reflection of the poverty, war, and survival...

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Introduction: De Ambos Lados / From Both Sides

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pp. 1-7

Rancho San Marcos, San Luis Potosí, México. On one of my first days conducting fieldwork in rural Mexico, I found myself looking at a painted photograph of a handsome young man with chiseled features. The yellowed edges of the photo showed its age, and there was a jagged crack in the glass cover. The woman...

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1. Placing Intimate Migrations

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pp. 9-28

“My husband must migrate soon . . . he needs to join his brothers on the other side.” As we spoke, Mariela was in her home in the rancho, preparing the midday meal. The kitchen was small and tidy—the concrete floor had just been mopped and the scent of bleach was strong. In one corner, there was a bright yellow stove and a...

Part I. Transborder Families

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2. Mitad Allá, Mitad Aquí/Half There, Half Here

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pp. 31-51

In an interview at the dining room table of her Albuquerque home, a former ESL and U.S. citizenship student, Lucía (see Introduction)—articulated the experience of being part of a transnational family. “I think that I am divided,” she explained. “I consider Mexico my home, but I think of my home as...

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3. Family “Reunification”

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pp. 53-67

In a room filled with colorful balloons and the remains of a piñata, the mood was, for the most part, celebratory. The guest of honor, a three-year-old girl in a cloud of white taffeta, was opening her gifts, relishing an enormous heart-shaped lollipop. Although a crowd of family and friends was gathered around the birthday girl, another...

Part II. Gendered Migrations

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4. ¡Ya Soy Hombre y Mujer!/Now I Am a Man and a Woman!

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pp. 71-90

On a hot, dusty spring afternoon in San Marcos, Rosa sat on her concrete living room floor, with her daughter and two of her sons, sorting through beans in preparation for planting. Their hands moved quickly, building a mound of lime green and separating out some shriveled beans and tossing them aside. Two burlap sacks of beans...

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5. Gendered Borderlands

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pp. 91-108

“We were hiding in the bushes . . . it was the middle of the night. We were there for what seemed like hours, with border patrol helicopters circling overhead. I’ll never forget that night.” José was describing his first and only trip north. Like other men from his town, he had gone at a young age—he was nineteen at the...

Part III. Children on the Move

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6. Por Mis Hijos/For My Children

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pp. 111-126

Early one morning, in Ciudad Juárez, on the U.S.-Mexico border, three young Mexican children—three, five, and six years old—waited with their grandmother in a relative’s home on the outskirts of the city. They had been apart from their mother, Susana, for more than two years, and had not seen or heard from their father...

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7. Here–Not Here

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pp. 127-142

I spent an afternoon in Mexico with a friend, Liliana, as she cared for a chaotic house full of children. They ran back and forth between the living room where we were talking and a dusty courtyard filled with goats and chickens. “Come niños,” she called to the two smallest of the group. “I have someone for you to meet...

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Conclusion: Ni de Aquí, Ni de Allá/From Neither Here Nor There

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pp. 143-147

“I wander about . . . I am from neither here nor there [ni de aquí, ni de allá]!” Ofelia stated emphatically, and then she began to laugh. Ofelia was recounting her many migrations between Mexico and the United States, and the bureaucratic process through which she was attempting to secure U.S. permanent residency. She had just...

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Postscript: Caught

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pp. 149-151

As Gerardo sat at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), he wondered why the renewal of his auto registration would take so much time. Gerardo had heard that wait times could be long at this office, so he stayed put. But after several hours, five ICE agents appeared, arrested Gerardo, and took him into custody, first at a...


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pp. 153-154


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pp. 155-170


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pp. 171-177

About the Author

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pp. 178

E-ISBN-13: 9780814789858
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814789834
Print-ISBN-10: 0814789838

Publication Year: 2012