“The numbers certainly do grab your attention: 115,864, that is, the number of Mexican immigrants who came to the United States in 2003 (Crosnoe1).” The author continued by enumerating other figures involved in the Mexican immigration to US nearly six years ago. It merits a naive question that, in turn, warrants several different answers ranging from practical common-sense to the unexpected – why are they here?
In particular, the query was about the reason why hundreds of thousands of citizens of Mexico flood the US borders everyday while the same extent of mass action can be felt simultaneously in illegal border crossing paths. During the time of the gold rush, it was understandable. Everyone from anywhere in the world wanted to be in the US to take part in the mining for gold and become more financially capable compared to their lives in their native land. Long after the gold rush, Mexican immigrants are still very eager to enter the US. Many say that the reason for this clamor is the need for jobs.
Crosnoe thought so, saying that Mexican migrants where in the US “in search of better jobs (Crosnoe 1).” But there is also something else; something that is not equivalent to financial gains, something. According to Crosnoe, includes “expanded opportunities, greater freedoms, new experiences, and things far less specific, such as hazy, ill-defined, but powerful images of a better tomorrow (Crosnoe 1).” For some, they believe that the urge to enter the United States is propelled by something more, something beyond and far from practical. It is a certain kind of fantastic ideal that they believe is possible in the land of opportunity and the home of the brave, a state attainable only if the journey to get there starts in the U.S., not in Mexico or any where else.
Call it chasing false hopes or hanging on a fragile thread or castles in the sky. But the truth is some are desperate enough that they would believe in anything, risk anything and want everything, that in the face of a dilemma where a 180 degree turn in lifestyle can be achieved by merit of a few steps towards another part of the world. The prospect of migrating to the US is something that is very difficult to disregard or not give a try. “They come to improve their lives by making a journey that covers a relatively small geographic space but a great social and economic chasm (Crosnoe 1).”
But was it the same case today as it were during the nineteenth century? Then, at the eve and midst of the industrial revolution in America there is not enough hands for labor to do the requirements demands by the new machines of production and transportation. Someone has to help make railways and tend the fields. Before Mexico was a place looked upon as a place where drug dealers and traffickers convene and transact, it was a place where people are willing to work under hard labor to earn dollars in exchange for blue collar jobs. Today, despite fewer and fewer tunnels and bridges that needs to be constructed with the help of manual labor from cheap Mexican labor, the United States still attracts Mexican migrants because while the job opportunity in their home country hardly improves over the years, the US seem to never ran out of job opportunities where legal immigrant or illegal border jumper can get started on.
Thesis – Understanding the culture of Mexico and the culture of immigration by Mexican men and women to the United States is important because this particular social phenomenon, in the history of the US, is not just merely something that should be earmarked for history reading. Rather, this is something that should be studied and looked on more intensely and extensively since this involves the lives of many people and the changes that happened in the past that helped in the shaping of the US as it is today. And because of this significance, this paper is focused on dissecting the social phenomenon that is the Mexican immigration to the United States by discussing several important segments and sections of this particular area so that better understanding, appreciation and re-education among the readers and the audience of this paper is achieved and the significance of the Mexican immigration to the US towards the several different aspect of US’s social strata established.
History of Mexican Culture and Struggles of Mexicans in U.S. Migration
Migration to the United States among the citizens of Mexico has become a very prevalent practice in the country that immigration itself is part of the Mexican culture. Consequently, Mexican culture was transferred to the United States neighborhood saturated with many Mexican immigrants. “Like all immigrant groups, the Mexicans who entered the United States brought with them their cultural traditions and ways of life (Garcia 21).”
The role of culture of Mexico and it being carried over to the United States as they migrated played an important part. This is because through the continuation and presence of the culture and tradition that they have been accustomed to, the Mexicans in the United States were not only allowed to continue their life sans excessive radical alteration in their social life. While at the same time provided them with something that they can use and depend on for them to be able to establish a sense of brotherhood and camaraderie in a land where there are other individuals who are also immigrants from other parts of the world, not to mention the white Americans who are born and settling there when they came. “Their Mexican culture provided them with a strong sense of community – an important survival strategy as they lived, worked, and raised their children in their new country (Garcia 21).”
Similarly, the continued development of the culture of Mexico is very much affected by the United States. Of course there is an inherently Mexican culture. But the history of the development of the culture of Mexico was seriously affected by the practice of migrating to the United States. Here is an example. While it is part of the American culture that individuals who reach a particular age were allowed by their parents independence including the chance to look for a job, the growing consciousness and desire to go to the United States to escape poverty in Mexico has somewhat shaped a particular characteristic in the culture of most Mexicans especially those found in the poverty line. In their particular culture, when an individual is seen fit to brave the risks of entering the U.S. legally or illegally, the family or the community (even the individual himself/herself) undertakes the task of journeying to the US to look for a better job. Consequently, the culture of dependency, particularly financial dependency, among the Mexicans left behind by individuals who journeyed to the United States has also become a noticeable and significant part of the overall culture among Mexicans especially poor Mexicans who depended on what the US can offer them for a chance at a better life.
The Pros and Cons of Migrating
Transferring from one country to another always has its advantages and disadvantages. All of these are dependent on the factors and conditions that affect the nature and extent of the migration of a citizen of Mexico to the United States. Is it a legal or illegal immigration? Will it be for a short time or will it be for long term? Are there secure job locations, place to stay and safe communities waiting the arrival of the immigrant in the US? Is the person truly motivated and dedicated to leave Mexico to accomplish a mission or goal in life that involves risking living a new life in the United States? These are just some of the questions the answer to which highly defines the list of pros and cons or advantages and disadvantages of leaving Mexico for the United States. But there are also some general ideas about the pros and cons in migrating from one country to another.
For Mexicans who are leaving Mexico because they want to escape the life of poverty in their home country, being able to enter the United States provides an individual with so many advantages, one of which is the chance to start life all over again and make a better life in the US. While some may say that this is merely a product of the “Land of Opportunity” propaganda and myth by the US. The dependence of many Mexican immigrants in the luck and job opportunity found in America and the number of true stories to support this claim are enough proofs that it is more advantageous for an individual with no prospect of landing a job in Mexico to migrate and go to the United States. But the idea of leaving always presents a particular disadvantage. Once in the US, an individual will have lesser or no friends and relatives accessible for assistance in times of need. Between the advantage and the disadvantage, it is always up to the person, his/her need and the urgency of the situation to decide which between the two he or she can find manageable.
There are other pros and cons to be considered in migrating to the United States. Besides the job and career opportunities, migrating to the US is seen by others as a chance to start life all over again. While for others, it can be a welcome change of pace and location, and these are ideas valid to be considered as pros. But there are also “cons,” like the threat of culture shock, the inability to adapt to US culture and way of life, breaking from the pressure of racial discrimination and prejudice, and the amount of money, time and energy that will be spent on an endeavor that does not provide a 100 percent guarantee that it will be a successful life post-migration are valid “cons” that Mexicans also think about and consider before making the move and heading for the border.
Some risk the presence of the disadvantage when opting for migrating to the United States to look for a job they cannot find in Mexico. “In Los Arboles, a relatively well-off rancho in Jalisco, Mexico, three-quarters of the 152 male heads of household repeatedly migrates to the United States for work (Lewellen 137).” The author pointed this out in lieu of trying to understand migration through the application of theories that can explain the migration behavior and preferences of individuals, and as the author noted later on in his work, one of the theory “views potential migrants as economic cost-benefit analysts who rationally measure the advantages and disadvantages of various countries and regions in terms of wealth maximization (Lewellen 137).”
The Amount of People Who Migrated
Migration by the citizens of Mexico has been a socio-economic and socio-political occurrence that has been going on for decades now. Because of this, there are information in different related literature sources that tries to explain the extent of the Mexican migration to the United States through figures and numbers. Robert Crosnoe, in his book entitled “Mexican Roots, American Schools,” noted how six years ago there were already 3,100,000 Mexican immigrants who currently have legal resident status in the United States; how there were already 55,946 Mexican immigrants who were granted US citizenship in 2003 and how there were already 2,400,000 Mexican immigrants who are currently eligible for US citizenship (Crosnoe 1). If it is true that the trend in the immigration is upwards in number and increase in figures, it is not very difficult to imagine the extent of the impact of the Mexican immigration in the population of the US and other related statistics.
Through the years, there were many migration stories featuring Mexicans who moved to the US. Some of these stories made their way to the publishing house and is now part of the Mexican-American annals of literature in both fiction and non fiction. Professional experts believe that at this time and age there are indeed many documents that narrate the life of the immigrant from Mexico to the US. These are the information which professional experts, analysts and historians use to help them in putting together a very big jigsaw puzzle entitled the life of Mexicans during the migration to the United States. “There is a history of ethnographic studies and collected testimonies that attempt to represent the diverse experiences of Mexican immigrants in the United States (Aldama 42).”
The author, later on, identified some authors who penned such types of works focused on migration stories by Mexicans including the works of writers Manuel Gamio (who wrote The Mexican Immigrant: His Life Story in 1931), Oscar Lewis (who wrote Five Families in 1959 and The Children of Sanchez in 1961) and John Poggie (who wrote Two-Cultures: The Life of a Mexican American in 1973) to name a few of them.
Preserving and referencing the inputs found in these migration stories which survived the times is important, especially in the effort to integrate the role and presence of the wave of active Mexican immigration to the United States. This particular line of though was brought up by Mario T. Garcia, in his article “Mexican Immigration in US-Mexican History: Myths and Reality,” after Garcia pointed out that while earlier historians point to the history of America all in all as a history of immigrants and of immigration, it seems that the role and place of the migration of the Mexicans to the country is unclear and vague until today. “The sagas of Latin American, especially Mexican, and Asian immigrants have not been fully integrated into an inclusive and diverse history of immigration in the country (Garcia 199).”
Losses and Gains
The immigration situation happening in Mexico wherein Mexicans move from their native country to the United States pose some losses. For Mexico, this is equivalent to the loss in manpower, as well as national revenue generated through the income and taxes that these Mexicans should have contributed to the national coffers if they were working for Mexico. Other types of losses include non-material loss like the breakdown of emotional bonds and social relationships after an individual leaves his/her home country for another place.
What can be considered as gains by the Mexican immigrants in the US are things that they managed to acquire when they get here, either in the form of money/material things or non material things. For the most part, the gains would include jobs and the resulting income, while other gains may include exposure to education as well as exposure to other things like social network and opportunities which are not present in Mexico. There are other gains, too, not just to immigrants but to the government as well as to companies seeking cheaper labor that they do not have to import from other countries or which would necessitate the creation of a business process outsourcing option for companies. Passel noted how Mexico was a significant source of immigrants coming to the US (the top at 2002) (Passel 2). Considering that there are many different aspects of production and manufacturing as well as blue collar jobs and small menial labors delegated to immigrants, it can be easily noted that what the US gains in this scenario is the presence of workers to fill the void. The same gain benefits the immigrants – if they left Mexico looking for a job in the US, it is a fortunate turn of events for those who actually landed a job in the US and contributed to the labor force of the country while being given the chance to build on whatever earnings coming from these jobs made available and accessible to immigrants particularly those coming from Mexico.
How Men and Women were Treated
An important part of the migration stories about Mexicans crossing the border and entering the US is its role in supporting what was believed to be as a set of practices directed at controlling and maintaining the status quo on how Mexican men and women immigrants were treated in the United States. It was not, of course, a single-file line, since not all of the immigrants fall into one specific category. But these migrations stories help in validating what experts ascertain as proven facts about how women and men from Mexico were treated once they are already here in the United States. As expected, there were many instances wherein male and female migrants from Mexico were treated as outsiders. And because of that, were accorded acts that point to the presence of prejudice and discrimination on how Mexican migrants were treated.
According to Garcia, the migrants particularly the male Mexicans were forced to create certain characteristics that made it easy for them to adapt, survive and push off the effects of prejudice and discrimination accorded to them as outsiders and foreigners inside the U.S., and such mechanisms included the use of machismo (Garcia 103). “Machismo can be seen as a survival strategy for Mexican men, protecting them from the problems associated with living in a society characterized with varying degrees of anti-Mexican immigrant sentiments (Garcia 103).”
There were information available in some related literature supporting the idea that Mexican male and female immigrants in the United States are treated differently – different compared to how other people in the country were treated by the society and different through gender-based distinctions which can be found in different aspects. One of which is work delegation among Mexican male and female immigrants.
Mexican immigrants per se and as an ethnic group are victimized by discrimination. “In the Southwestern United States, the lives of Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans have been shaped by pervasive occupational segregation (Mattingly 52).” This racial and ethnic discrimination moves further and deeper by becoming a form of gender based discrimination (or distinction; however the critic/analyst sees it). The discrimination/distinction/segregation was the reason why the employment of Mexican male and female immigrant in the U.S. is largely limited to “agricultural and other manual labor [for men] and service work [for women] (Mattingly 52).”
The treatment of male and female Mexican immigrant to the United States has been characterized by the presence of gender-based notions. “Specifically, the treatment of Mexicans under immigration law has been gendered through the prevalent notions of ‘working man’ and ‘dependent wife’ (Mattingly 52).” And sadly, in this set up, the male individuals comprising the community of Mexican immigrants to the United States looks like the group that gets the better end of the deal compared to their female counterparts, if for the consideration on the significance of the Mexican immigrants especially to the labor force. “Mexican immigrant men have historically been valued for their role in paid production, especially farming, manufacturing, and mining (Mattingly 52).”
Besides this appraisal is another sad note that is disadvantageous especially to Mexican women immigrants to the US. Because Mexican male immigrants to the US were considered second rate or third rate individuals in the country, the society wanted them to go back to Mexico after contributing a particular labor. To ensure that they would want to go back, they expect the Mexican women to stay in Mexico and wait for the return of their male partners, to act as reasons for the men of Mexico to return. Because of this, the idea of women from Mexico migrating in the US was something that immigration policy makers was not very fond of, and something they supported the least and hardly attend to, if there were any important things to do in this aspect, just to discourage women from leaving and to encourage men to return to their wives, mothers, daughters and sisters to Mexico. “Mexican women…have not even been valued as workers, and their immigration has never been encouraged by immigration policy (Mattingly 52).”
Migrating to the United States poses many risks, both to the prospective migrant and to the US government as well. The migrant maybe subjected to the problems that Mexican migrants experience, like problems in the border and during border crossing, either legally or otherwise. “These border wars have created new hazards for arriving Mexicans and have prompted an outcry from organizations (Tulchin, Selee 305).”
But that is not all, especially those who are crossing illegally. It is no secret that there is a great number of illegal border jumpers from Mexico to U.S., and the heightened security effort by the U.S. versus these individuals also upped the ante on the dangers and risks involved in migrating through illegal means. “The physical dangers now facing immigrants have dramatically escalated…developments that have pushed migrants to take ever greater risks by travelling through far less hospitable terrain in efforts to cross (Tulchin, Selee 305).” The risk was so great that Tulchin and Selee noted in their book that there are those who die in the process of crossing the border.
For the government, the risk found in the immigration of Mexicans to the U.S. is the risk of allowing the entry of possible drug syndicate members, terrorists or individuals who may pose a potential threat to national security, especially now that there is a heightened campaign versus drugs and terrorism involving the US and Mexico (at least in the war on drugs), considering that Mexico was also the place of origin of the biggest bulk of immigrants in the US which are still undocumented (Passel 4).
The story of immigration of Mexicans for the United States is a social phenomenon that cannot be easily contained in a few pages of paper or in the accounts of several hundred individuals because it is something that happened that involved many years, many lives and brought forth many changes. Despite the fact that it is a source of problem for the US government since several threats like the entry of drug syndicates and the distribution of the global channel of drug tunnels and cartels use the U.S. as an important location and other problems go along with the immigration of Mexicans towards the United States, there is no doubt that Mexico and its culture (including the culture of migration towards the United States) has significantly affected and will continue to affect US culture in a positive way.
Experts like critics, historians and analysts who have followed the development of the immigration of Mexicans in the US and its impact to the US and to Mexico have noted that the wave of immigration coming from Mexico will “in the coming years, profoundly alter, transform, diversify, and enrich everything about the United States…its economy…cultural fabric…the essence of what it means to be an American (Crosnoe 1).”
Indeed, the Mexican immigration to the US is not just one point or particular time in the history of the United States and Mexico. It is something that has began years ago and hasn’t stopped happening since. “Day after day, week after week, year after year, Mexicans migrate to the United States through various methods and points of entry (Crosnoe 1).”
Until the Mexican government managed to find a way to reverse the social climate and instead have Mexicans wanting to stay in their own country while those in foreign lands wanting to return to Mexico because of improved life in economic and political spheres, the Mexican migration to the United States will continue. This is largely because this is an option available for Mexicans who are faced with the need to answer their most primitive urges – the need to survive. And as the Mexican immigrants grow more and more everyday inside the United States, the greater the chance that something more than their lives is being preserved – and that is culture. They came here so that they have a chance to live their lives to its fullest. But in the collective effort in doing so, they also unknowingly placed the torch of Mexican culture in another place where at the vigilance and continued fervor of many Mexicans the flame of the culture was something that was not smothered and extinguished by the foreign land, foreign faces and foreign culture.
Instead, the immigration made the culture of Mexico inside the US even warmer and lights brighter as more and more Mexicans who are in the US guarantee that exercise and continued existence of the Mexican culture which they brought in the country along with their wary bodies, there sparse luggage and the big hope that the land of opportunity has something for them to start their lives all over again. Their culture hasn’t stopped from being extant and thrived successfully inside a new place where Mexicans are flocking everyday. “In Mexican immigrant communities throughout the United States, particularly in the Southwest, Mexican culture thrived within the immigrants’ families, religion, and community activities (Garcia 21).”
The Mexican immigration to the U.S. was an effort by individuals to save their lives. But in doing so, they did not realize that they will also be an agent that will transfer the culture of Mexico in other country, a country which, fortunately, proved to be a place that is suitable and amenable for the entry of different cultures. As Mexicans in the US exercise several different aspects of their culture which they brought in the US, they contribute to the effort to keep the Mexico culture alive. And because of this and the other many different strings that somehow tie everything together, the Mexican immigrants and the world saw that the Mexican culture is hinged on the US culture and vice versa. This is because of the significance that each country and its particular culture bring s to the other, largely because of the human exodus known as migration.
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