World of Mexican Migrants: The Rock and the Hard Place

Overview

Widely praised as a splendid addition to the literature on the great wave of post-1970 immigration from Mexico—as a result of which an estimated 6 million undocumented Mexican migrants now live in the United States—The World of Mexican Migrants, by acclaimed author Judith Adler Hellman, takes us into the lives of those who, no longer able to eke out even a modest living in their homeland, have traveled north to find jobs.

Hellman takes us deep into the sending communities in ...

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The World of Mexican Migrants: The Rock and the Hard Place

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Overview

Widely praised as a splendid addition to the literature on the great wave of post-1970 immigration from Mexico—as a result of which an estimated 6 million undocumented Mexican migrants now live in the United States—The World of Mexican Migrants, by acclaimed author Judith Adler Hellman, takes us into the lives of those who, no longer able to eke out even a modest living in their homeland, have traveled north to find jobs.

Hellman takes us deep into the sending communities in Mexico, where we witness the conditions that lead Mexicans to risk their lives crossing the border and meet those who live on Mexico’s largest source of foreign income, remittances from family members al Norte. We hear astonishing border crossing tales—including one man’s journey riding suspended from the undercarriage of a train. In New York and Los Angeles, construction workers, restaurant staff, street vendors, and deliverymen share their survival strategies—the ways in which they work, send money home, find housing, learn English, send their children to school, and avoid detection.

Drawing upon five years of in-depth interviews, Hellman offers a humanizing perspective and “essential window” (Booklist) into the lives and struggles of Mexican migrants living in the United States.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A sympathetic, wide-ranging portrait of the lives of Mexicans on both sides of the border. Go to the Mexican consulate in Tucson, Ariz., and you'll be among the few waiting for services; go to the same consulate in New York City, and you'll join a line a block long. That may seem odd, but to Hellman (Political Science/York Univ.; Mexican Lives, 1994, etc.) it speaks volumes about how central New York has become to border-crossers: "Mexicans-depending on whether we count both documented and undocumented people-have one of the highest, if not the highest, birthrates of any national group in the city." But why travel so far from the border? For one thing, there are jobs available, even if too many of them require workers to swallow their pride, since protesting unfair conditions can lead to deportation. Yet there are other considerations, Hellman observes. It's possible to get around by public transportation, which removes the need for private transportation and thus registrations, licenses and other things that require identification. Thus Staten Island and Long Island are full of esquineros, the men who wait on the corner for odd jobs and daily construction work. Meanwhile, down at the border, the Border Patrol is concerned not just with stemming the tide, but with triage. Says one top officer, "economic migrants are just the clutter that we need to brush away so we can get at the really bad guys . . . meaning the dope smugglers and the people smugglers." The presence of so many Mexicans may make some Anglos nervous, but their self-appointed guardians in the so-called Minutemen aren't much help; as critics note, they make big noise but mostly sit in lawn chairs and drink beer while thealambristas hop the fence to become esquineros and do the jobs no one else wants. Humane and helpful, Hellman removes the shrillness from the border debate to show what the crossers do and why they do it-and why most Americans don't object to their presence.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565848382
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 3/31/2008
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author


Judith Adler Hellman is a professor of social and political science at York University, Toronto. She is the author of Mexican Lives and The World of Mexican Migrants: The Rock and the Hard Place, both published by The New Press, as well as Mexico in Crisis and Journeys Among Women: Feminism in Five Italian Cities. Hellman’s fieldwork and writing on Mexico date back to the 1960s, when she first interviewed peasants in the countryside and social movement activists in the cities. She lives in Toronto, Canada.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Prologue     xiii
Introduction     1
The Rock
Beto: Those Not with Us     17
Nopal Verde: The Life of a Town     23
San Rafael: A Life of Cooperation     35
Marta: The Tyranny of In-Laws     45
Dolores: "We Only Speak on Sundays"     57
The Journey
Tomas: Traveling in Style     65
Elena: "Absolutely Still"     77
Angel: Cat and Mouse     83
Fernando: "A Snake's Breakfast"     87
The Tucson Consulate     93
No More Deaths     99
Shanti and Daniel     107
"Walking Around, Living Their Lives"     113
The Hard Place
Carlos: Names and Networks     119
Sara: "Ten Words in Ten Years"     137
Francisco: The Hardest Place     145
To Stay or to Return Home
Julio: A Quick Exit     169
Manuel: Life After Amnesty     177
Patricia: Weighing the Good and the Bad     191
Conclusion     211
A Note on Methodology     233
Notes     243
Glossary     247
Suggested Reading     251
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