Pub. Date:
University of California Press
Beyond the Borderlands: Migration and Belonging in the United States and Mexico

Beyond the Borderlands: Migration and Belonging in the United States and Mexico

by Debra Lattanzi Shutika
Current price is , Original price is $29.95. You

Temporarily Out of Stock Online

Please check back later for updated availability.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 2900520269599
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 07/08/2011
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Debra Lattanzi Shutika is a folklorist and Associate Professor of English at George Mason University.

Read an Excerpt

Beyond the Borderlands

Migration and Belonging in the United States and Mexico

By Debra Lattanzi Shutika


Copyright © 2011 The Regents of the University of California
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-95023-8





Although I live in Virginia, far from the U.S.-Mexico border, in 2005 it felt as if the border had moved into my backyard. That summer I watched the situation in Herndon, Virginia, with fascination and an uncanny sense of déjà vu as a controversy erupted regarding a group of Latino men. For over a decade a sizable group of day laborers, many of whom were from Mexico and Central America, had been gathering in the parking lot of Herndon's 7-Eleven in the early morning, hoping to find work. The space had become an ad hoc employment center for contractors seeking extra workers for a specific job or local residents looking to employ a handyman for small household projects. Herndon's residents were becoming increasingly unnerved by the men who were described as "scary" and "unkempt." Residents complained that groups of men would "swarm on top of [customers]" when driving into the 7-Eleven (Cho 2005, July 18: A1). The residents, American citizens who constituted the local English-speaking majority, insisted that the local officials force the men to leave lest they risk arrest. As an alternative, a local social service provider proposed to develop a day labor center so that men looking for work would have a place to congregate. As envisioned by the planners, the site would offer on-site English classes and job skills training, as well as a place to spend the afternoon when work was not available.

Although this seemed like a good idea to some, the proposal to build a day labor center, to resituate Latinos within Herndon, met strong resistance from the majority population. Many of the same residents who were unhappy with the hundred or so men waiting by the 7-Eleven were similarly incensed by the alternative: using tax dollars to build an official day labor center located adjacent to a residential neighborhood. They argued that funding a day labor center would officially encourage illegal immigration (Cho 2005: T03). Many also feared that a town-supported center might encourage even more undocumented workers to come to Herndon.

I watched the circumstances surrounding Herndon's day labor controversy with more than a casual interest. The events were reminiscent of those that I had begun documenting in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, the previous decade. Since the mid-1980s Kennett Square had transitioned from a majority Anglo-European small town into a multiethnic community as Mexican families began moving in and around the area. The issues at stake in Kennett Square during this rapid local transformation were nearly identical to those in Herndon: finding a physical and cultural place for the rapidly growing number of Mexican families moving into the community; frustration with failed national immigration policies and the search for local alternatives; and most significantly, anxiety about the changing local character and communal identity of an Anglo-European historic farming village.

Other issues, such as how to maintain ties to distant families and friends, were voiced by Mexicans who were settling in Kennett Square, yet they were rarely acknowledged in public discussions because very few of these newcomers spoke English, most were presumed transients, and some were undocumented. When I began my work with some of these Mexican families in 1995, I asked them what their thoughts were, and their responses reflected concerns about incorporation into the community and adapting to life in Pennsylvania: what I refer to as emplacement and belonging. These men and women had a strong desire to make a home in Kennett Square and to provide more opportunities for their families. At the same time, they wanted to maintain connections to their home community in Mexico and preserve their identities as Mexicans living in the United States. Although my early work with this group of Mexican settlers began in Pennsylvania, it was not long before I realized that their stories of settlement and adaptation in Kennett were, and continue to be, deeply tied to their home community in Mexico, a place that I refer to as Textitlán, Guanajuato. Their ties to Textitlán constitute a complex binational existence that has shaped their experiences in Kennett Square, everyday life in their hometown, and how they find and maintain their place and sense of belonging in both communities.

This book, an ethnography based on fieldwork in Mexico and Pennsylvania, explores the challenges encountered by Mexican families as they endeavored to find their place in Kennett Square beginning in the mid-1980s. It situates the events in Kennett Square in the historical context of the changing geography of Mexican immigration, the oldest and most sustained of all of America's immigrations (Massey 1998; Suarez-Orozco 1998; Durand, Massey and Capoferro 2005; Zúñiga and Hernández-León 2005). Beyond the Borderlands provides a ten-year longitudinal window between 1995 and 2005 during the formation of the new destination settlement in Kennett Square and the accompanying changes that took place in Textitlán.

I was trained as a folklorist, so when I began my work with Mexican families in 1995, I was intrigued by Kennett Square's Mexican population and the local responses to Mexican settlement. On the surface, Kennett Square resembled the types of small, localized face-to-face communities that were the subjects of sense of place studies common in folklore scholarship. As this project grew, however, it became apparent that the situation in Kennett Square was deeply multifaceted. Although the total number of Mexicans in Kennett Square was small, as in many rural and suburban communities where Mexicans and other immigrants are settling in the United States, their presence has had an influence disproportionate to their numbers. Their effect on the community's culture and day-to-day life has reshaped Kennett Square's local character. The experiences in Kennett Square for Mexicans and longer-term residents demonstrates that immigrant settlement and incorporation are characterized not so much by assimilating one's culture and identity to "fit in" to a host society but are constituted through diverse experiences that simultaneously integrate newcomers even as their presence reshapes their new community (Alba and Nee 2003, 11). Beyond the Borderlands is an examination of the senses of place, and the Mexican sense of belonging, as each evolved in the context of migration between Kennett Square and Textitlán.


It was not clear when I began this study in the mid-1990s that Kennett Square was what has been termed a new destination settlement (Zuñiga and Hernández-León 2005). Although Mexican men had been migrating to Kennett Square for years to pick mushrooms, it had only been a few years since these men started moving their families north. By the late 1990s it was apparent that Kennett Square was one of many Mexican settlements emerging in new locations throughout the United States, settlements that were part of a new era of Mexican migration and settlement. What I was witnessing in the field had not been widespread since the classic era of immigration at the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century: the formation of new immigrant communities throughout the United States (Massey 2008).

More recently it has come to light that the events in places like Kennett Square are part of a larger national trend in Mexican immigration that has occurred since the mid-1980s: the phenomenon of Mexicans settling permanently in communities outside the border region. At one time the U.S.-Mexico borderlands were the familiar destination of Mexican immigration and immigration controversy. Throughout the 1980s, national headlines documented the problems of the borderlands: the porous yet militarized border; coyotes (immigrant traffickers) and drug smugglers; migrant deaths in the desert; and undocumented workers siphoning public funds were some of the more common issues discussed. Once considered a localized problem, emigration from Mexico has moved beyond its familiar territory in the borderlands and is now dispersed to new and diverse places across the United States (Zúñiga and Hernández-León 2005).

The most striking changes have taken place in American suburbs and rural small towns. These communities, once the exclusive domain of Anglo middle- and upper-class families, are increasingly home to a growing number of immigrant families. Throughout the 1990s, the U.S. foreign-born population grew dramatically—increasing to 11.3 million or 57.4 percent—and by 2000, nearly a third of these new immigrant settlers were residing outside of locations that were the historic gateway settlement states and moving into places with little history of immigrant settlement (Singer 2004: 3). This shift in settlement gave rise to new immigrant gateways that experienced growth rates of more than double the national average. These new gateways included states such as Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, and North Carolina, as well as a number of large metropolitan areas, including Washington, DC, Atlanta, and Denver (Singer 2004: 9–10). Most notably, by 2000 immigrants in these newly emerging gateways were much more likely to settle in suburbs rather than in cities (Singer 2004: 11).

These demographic changes were in part the outcome of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which facilitated the changing social and cultural landscape of Kennett Square. It provided amnesty and legal residency for previously undocumented laborers, primarily Mexican nationals, throughout the United States, allowing former cyclical migrants to settle permanently in the United States (Durand, Massey, and Charvet 2000; Hernández-León and Zúñiga 2000; Massey, Durand, and Malone 2002; Durand, Massey, and Capoferro 2005). Although the numbers of legal immigrants who were moving into nontraditional settlement areas began to rise in the early 1980s, the total number of immigrants living in new destinations increased significantly immediately after the passage of IRCA in 1986, peaking at 25 percent in the late 1980s and then falling back to 12 percent by 1992 (Massey, Durand, and Malone 2002: 127).

The IRCA was not the only event that shaped the changing migration and settlement patterns in the United States. Increased border security in Texas and California ultimately encouraged migrants to stay longer in the United States. Similarly, a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment in California, culminating in the passage of Proposition 187, also contributed to the establishment of Mexican communities outside the historic gateway states along the U.S.-Mexico borderlands (Massey, Durand, and Malone 2002).

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect in 1994. It promoted the integration of the capital markets of the United States and Mexico and thus lowered barriers to the movement of goods, capital, services, and information, but the agreement excluded provisions for labor. NAFTA was expected to create new jobs in Mexico to decrease undocumented immigration to the United States. These expectations were never realized, however (Andreas 1998, 2000; FernándezKelly and Massey 2007). In the never-ending pursuit of cheap labor, many of the post-NAFTA U.S.-owned factories in Mexico were shuttered as operations were relocated in China or other Latin American countries. The deregulation of Mexican agriculture and competition from the United States and Canada also forced many Mexican peasants out of agriculture (Fernández-Kelly and Massey 2007). The net effect of NAFTA's economic integration neither decreased the number of displaced Mexican workers nor reduced entry of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico into the United States.

In Kennett Square, most of the pioneer settlers who participated in this study said that they decided to move their families to Pennsylvania after receiving amnesty, but changes in local economic and labor needs also facilitated this process. For instance, the early 1990s saw an expansion of suburban developments throughout Chester County and increased the labor needs in construction and landscaping. These new jobs fueled Mexican settlement in Kennett Square from the mid-1990s onward. In other parts of the United States, the increased demand for domestic assistance (i.e., housekeeping and child care) created a labor market for immigrant women and also promoted a more diverse settlement pattern (Hernández-León and Zúñiga 2000; Hondagneu-Sotelo 2001; Zúñiga and Hernández-León 2005). Whereas it was rare in Kennett Square for Mexican women to take domestic housecleaning jobs, women were more often engaged in informal child care in their homes, working for other Mexican women who were employed outside the home. The few Mexican women working outside the home were most often employed as cooks or waitstaff in local restaurants, and some women also worked at a Kennett Square mushroom packing plant.

As locations of settlement, Kennett Square and other new destinations have had limited or no prior history of a Mexican presence. As such, they do not provide the long-standing social and political support networks that are common in the borderlands. New destinations are also unique in that the longer-term citizen residents are facing a variety of unexpected challenges, such as providing bilingual education and culturally appropriate health-care services, as their communities grow. The changes that accompany growth are often fraught with controversy as the very character of local identity shifts along with the population.

Since the mid-1990s, new destinations have often been at the center of immigration debates, most notably where citizens organize against immigrants in an attempt to "take back" their communities through the enactment of local ordinances (Bono 2007; Ludden 2007; Osterling and McClure 2008; Walker 2008). Anti-immigrant actions have included a range of activities, including the creation of zoning laws that redefine who can live together in a legal household and enactment of ordinances that enable local law enforcement to arrest suspected undocumented immigrants and remove them from the community. Some cases have also included open harassment of immigrants (Osterling and McClure 2008). Such local responses are frequently characterized as reactions to the failure of federal immigration policy, but they are also fundamentally battles about who belongs to the community and the local sense of place. Understanding the dynamics of new destinations is essential to understanding issues of contemporary immigration debate because these communities have become some of the most vocal and influential players in immigration politics.

Among in-depth examinations of new destinations (Lamphere 1992; Fink 2003; Hirsch 2003; Millard, Chapa, and Burillo 2004; Smith 2006; Jones 2008), Beyond the Borderlands offers a distinct approach to U.S.-Mexico migration studies because it provides an in-depth examination of the perspectives and influence of both the English-speaking community in the United States and the non-migrating Mexicans in the sending community. This combined approach has uncovered distinct insights into the evolving cultural practices of U.S.-born residents and Mexicans in the early years of the formation of the new destination. It also points to the important influence of the U.S. citizen population on migrants' perceptions of belonging and exclusion in the newly emerging multiethnic community.

In 1995 when I set out to document everyday life for Mexican families settling in Kennett Square, I quickly found that I could not fully understand these events unless I was willing to pay attention to the role of the English-speaking majority in shaping Mexican experiences of emplacement and belonging. My work quickly expanded from a study of a settlement enclave to one about the relationships between the English-speaking majority and Mexican settlers. Beyond the Borderlands examines the English-speaking majority's responses to Mexican settlement, which at times seemed paradoxical and contradictory. Although there were overt strategies that appeared to incorporate Mexican families in the community, it was clear that a number of unspoken rules governed who did and did not belong in Kennett Square and that these rules clearly favored the English-speaking majority and marginalized Mexican families struggling to find their place in the community.

Accessing the immigrant community in Kennett Square, however, was not a simple process. In late 1995, I discovered a nonprofit migrant health clinic and a social service agency, Project Salud and La Comunidad Hispana, respectively. These agencies served as my first introduction to the Mexican community, and they were recognized among Mexican settlers as the places to go when in need of health care and social services or to find help negotiating the complex cultural landscape that was Kennett Square. Drawing upon the resources of La Comunidad Hispana and Project Salud, I was also able to collect essential information about Mexicans who were settling in Kennett Square. The agencies collected demographic data on their client population, including where they were from in Mexico, the average age and family size, and where they were living in Kennett Square.


Excerpted from Beyond the Borderlands by Debra Lattanzi Shutika. Copyright © 2011 The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

Acknowledgments ix

1 Introduction: New Borders and Destinations 1

2 "I give thanks to God, after that, the United States": Everyday Life in Textitlán 38

3 La Casa Vacía: Meanings and Memories in Abandoned Immigrant Houses 68

4 In the Shadows and Out: Mexican Kennett Square 91

5 Bridging the Community: Nativism, Activism, and the Politics of Belonging 136

6 There and Back Again: The Pilgrimage of Return Migration 166

7 The Ambivalent Welcome: Cinco de Mayo and the Performance of Local Identity and Ethnic Relations 203

Epilogue 239

Notes 249

References 275

Index 293

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Rich and thought provoking."

Population, Space And Place

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews