634.2 How Mexican hometowns engage development and “manage” migration

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 9:15 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Abigail ANDREWS , Sociology, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
This research, based in an in-depth qualitative comparison of two communities, asks why rural, migrant sending communities in Southern Mexico develop contrasting politics to regulate their own migrants (Mutersbaugh 2002), as well as different approaches to state-sponsored development projects.  Using two years of participant observation and in-depth interviews, I contrast the trajectories of two indigenous, rural migrant-sending hometowns in Oaxaca, Mexico.  In the example of Tlacotepec, migrant farm workers regularly circulated between the United States and Mexico and sent money to their families back home.  These migrants exerted strong influence in the hometown government.  However, while the men were gone, their wives who stayed behind also sought out state-sponsored “women’s empowerment” programs to support their own influence and autonomy.  In contrast, in nearby Cajonos, children often left their parents behind, migrating for good.  The people who stayed behind in the village felt abandoned and received fewer remittances than in the other village.  Therefore, in this case, the hometown demanded that migrants contribute money to the village government or lose their rights to visit.  The villagers who stayed behind also rejected state development programs, worried that such programs would corrupt their cultural traditions, coopt members, or even push young villagers to migrate.  Previous scholars have debated the “impacts of migration,” particularly the potential development effects of remittances.  However, I contend that to understand who sends remittances and for what, how hometowns address migration, and how migrant hometowns deal with development programs, we must look at each community’s particular system of migration – whether linear (migrants abandon the village) or circular (migrants go back and forth).  In turn, we must consider the efforts of those who stay behind to regulate and respond to these migrant flows.