restricted access 7 A Pueblo’s Search for Empowerment across Borders
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213 Chapter Seven A Pueblo’s Search for Empowerment across Borders And one of the things that is, I think, tough for the American people to digest is that Mexicans, because it’s next door, are holding onto their tradition and to their language much longer than the Polish did when they came over here, and the Germans and the Austrians when they came here, the French when they came here, because that was like you wanted to go and become part of America so quickly that you tried to learn the language. —Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (quoted in Yamamura 2007) In the twenty-first century, Indo American people, including­ Mexican-origin, are the nation’s fastest growing population—from 6.4 percent in 1980 to 15.1 percent in 2008 (US Bureau of the Census 2008a)1 —and are among the poorest and most socially marginalized­ racial/ethnic groups in the United States (Almaguer 1994, 212).2 In the context of globalization and a declining quality of life for US society in general (Collins and Yeskel 2005), concerns about immigrants taking away jobs, draining public resources, and not assimilating, as voiced by the governor, have fueled nativistic immigration policies and social mistreatment that complicate migrants’ equal integration into society. The 214 The Xaripu Community across Borders Xaripu case dispels racial stereotypes and counters criticism that migrants of color are not “making it” in America by illustrating how their long historical (colonial) subordination continues to affect their labor, community formation, and family empowerment across borders. I have proposed a conceptual framework, interactive colonization (XC),3 that reflects the Xaripu experience and underscores the continuity of domination rooted in and universalized through various types of colonialisms . XC, moreover, looks beyond polarized conflicts (e.g., Europeans versus Indigenous people, capitalists versus workers, and women versus men) by exploring the internal diversity within social categories (e.g., Hispanic and Mexican) and examining the role of emergent intermediaries in reproducing, countering, and/or reconfiguring existing social hierarchies. In the United States, Xaripus have historically encountered limited occupational opportunities and labor market segmentation. While the global economy affects the general population in similar ways (such as economic restructuring, declining real income, and increasing household debts), the unequal incorporation of racial minorities limits their access to resources and social valorization. The logic of colonialism4 remains entrenched at work, where the racialization of workers and occupations correlates with labor conditions and wages. Whitened occupations offer the most stable and highest paid employment; diversified jobs, the fairest conditions; and Mexicanized, the most exploitative. The jobs themselves do not simply carry an inherent value or reflect supply and demand market forces, but rather reveal that who performs them determines the status and rewards associated with the job. In-between workers—such as managers and contractors of color—­ facilitate and secure these labor hierarchies. This intermediary position is structured by racial, class, gender, and national hierarchies, and it ap­ pears in all Mexicanized, diversified, and Whitened occupations. In Mexi­ canized farm labor, for instance, the documented mestizos managed an increasingly undocumented Indigenous workforce. In packinghouses and factories, English speakers supervised the non-English speakers; men oversaw women; and the more European-looking Mexicans were put in charge of more Indigenous-looking ones. Similarly, in the diversified and Whitened labor settings, workers closer in race, gender, culture, and class to the administration experienced unearned advantages and rewards.5 A Pueblo’s Search for Empowerment across Borders  215 The strategic employment of members of the marginalized group in intermediary positions6 secures existing social hierarchies. At the global level, the historical recruitment of labor migrants from (neo-) colonized nations also reproduces labor hierarchies in the receiving nation (Ngai 2004), and it fragments communities/families in the sending nation (see López Castro 1986; Parreñas 2001a; Espiritu 2003b). Transnational Xaripus illustrate this complex reality through their in-between class position across borders. Transnational Xaripus experience “contradictory class mobility” in relation to their counterparts in Michoacán (see Parreñas 2001b; Kearney 1996). That is, in California they are generally laborers, whereas in Michoacán they employ fellow Xaripu non-migrants in farming, domestic work, and construction. Although transnational Xaripus create economic opportunities in their pueblo, they also disrupt relationships that were once egalitarian and mutual.This rupture occurs because trans­ national norteños/as are relatively better off economically than their counterparts in Mexico, irrespective of their human capital differences. For instance, a farmworker from California earns more than a teacher from Michoacán...


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