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How the border shapes the experiences and opportunities of Mexicans on each side

Mexican Voices of the Border Region

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with translations by Sandra del Castillo

Laura Velasco Ortiz and Oscar F. Contreras

"Mexican Voices of the Border Region is a novel addition to the growing literature on borders, transborder communities, and using borders for understanding United States–Mexico relations. The moving stories—of those who cross the border for their work and do not experience that crossing as particularly liberating—are very compelling and have broad appeal."
Lynn Stephen, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, University of Oregon, and author of Transborder Lives: Indigenous Oaxacans in Mexico, California, and Oregon

Every day, 40,000 commuters cross the U.S.-Mexico border at Tijuana-San Diego to go to work. Untold numbers cross illegally. Since NAFTA was signed into law, the border has become a greater obstacle for people moving between countries. Transnational powers have exerted greater control over the flow of goods, services, information, and people.

Mexican Voices of the Border Region examines the flow of people, commercial traffic, and the development of relationships across this border. Through first-person narratives, Laura Velasco Ortiz and Oscar F. Contreras show that since NAFTA, Tijuana has become a dynamic and significant place for both nations in terms of jobs and residents. The authors emphasize that the border itself has different meanings whether one crosses it frequently or not at all. The interviews probe into matters of race, class, gender, ethnicity, place, violence, and political economy as well as the individual's sense of agency.

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Excerpt

Read the Introduction (pdf).

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Reviews

"There is no book dealing with the issue of the Tijuana/San Diego border experience like this one. The authors’ strengths are many: the emphasis on how the border is ‘lived,’ the ten years of in-depth oral histories, their vast knowledge of the region, and their well-selected case studies. Mexican Voices of the Border Region will be an invaluable addition to border literature."
Pablo Vila, Professor of Sociology, Temple University, and author of Border Identifications: Narratives of Religion, Gender, and Class on the U.S.-Mexico Border

"[N]umerous monographs have examined different aspects of the borderlands. Mexican Voices of the Border Region is unique, however, in its multi-faceted approach....The stories are heart-wrenching, and each one implicitly illustrates the three factors that the editors argue characterize the U.S.-Mexico border: adjacency, asymmetry, and interaction. Yet it is striking the extent to which those interviewed interpret and tell their own stories in individual, rather than structural, terms. This disjuncture is illustrated poignantly by the Mexican-American border patrol agent whose testimony closes the book."
The Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare

"What emerges from the collaborative narratives of researches and interviewees are life experiences that evidence the harshness of the current economic recession and enduring hope amid despair. These life histories expose readers to the pervasiveness of gender, ethnic, and class inequities in Mexican society, which do not vanish at the border line. A balancing forte of the book is the account of US-born children of Mexican immigrants. These life stories illustrate how the border creates a conundrum across a geopolitical line; Mexicans are and are not like one another. Well researched and documented, readable and fascinating. Summing Up: Highly recommended."
Choice

"[A]n evocative narrative of the transnational border experience in the Tijuana-San Diego region.... All of these personal accounts serve to evince the strong sociological influence that living and working on the border has.... Velasco Ortiz and Contreras are adept at placing these unique individual experiences into a theoretical context that exemplifies the sociological underpinnings of life on the Mexican-U.S. border."
Contemporary Sociology

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Contents

Foreword, by Arthur Schmidt
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Lived Borders
1. Living on the Agricultural Frontier
2. Home, Sweet Industrial Home
3. Sex without Kisses, Love with Abuse
4. A Straight-Dealing Drug Trafficker
5. An Indigenous Woman Street Vendor
6. A Caregiver Commuter
7. A Border Acrobat
8. The Mexicali Panther
9. A Young Mexican American
10. Guarding the American Dream
Conclusion: Opportunity and Uncertainty
Notes
References
Index

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About the Author(s)

Laura Velasco Ortiz is Professor in the Department of Cultural Studies at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte. She is the author of Mixtec Transnational Identity, an updated translation of her book El regreso de la comunidad: Migración indígena y agentes étnicos. Los mixtecos en la frontera México–Estados Unidos.

Oscar F. Contreras is a Professor in the Department of Social Studies at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte. He is the author of many articles and books, most recently Aprendizaje tecnológico y desarrollo local: La industria automotriz en el norte de México.

Subject Categories

Latin American/Caribbean Studies
Latino/a Studies
Sociology


In the series

Voices of Latin American Life, edited by Arthur Schmidt.

Voices of Latin American Life, edited by Arthur Schmidt, aims to bring the texture and humanity of Latin American experiences to English-language readers through translations of works that impart direct voices. Through testimonial literature, interviews, and essays, the series will present important Latin American views from the famous and the anonymous that reflect the immense challenges of fundamental issues and of daily life in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

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