The issues that dominate U.S.-Mexico border relations today—integration of economies, policing of boundaries, and the flow of workers from south to north and of capital from north to south—are not recent developments. In this insightful history of the state of Nuevo León, Juan Mora-Torres explores how these processes transformed northern Mexico into a region with distinct economic, political, social, and cultural features that set it apart from the interior of Mexico.
Mora-Torres argues that the years between the establishment of the U.S.-Mexico boundary in 1848 and the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution in 1910 constitute a critical period in Mexican history. The processes of state-building, emergent capitalism, and growing linkages to the United States transformed localities and identities and shaped class formations and struggles in Nuevo León. Monterrey emerged as the leading industrial center and home of the most powerful business elite, while the countryside deteriorated economically, politically, and demographically. By 1910, Mora-Torres concludes, the border states had already assumed much of their modern character: an advanced capitalist economy, some of Mexico's most powerful business groups, and a labor market dependent on massive migrations from central Mexico.
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.
Prior to the millennium, economists and policy makers argued that free trade between the United States and Mexico would benefit both Americans and Mexicans. They believed that NAFTA would be a “win-win” proposition that would offer U.S. companies new markets for their products and Mexicans the hope of living in a more developed country with the modern conveniences of wealthier nations. Blending rigorous economic and statistical analysis with concern for the people affected, Mexican Women in American Factories offers the first assessment of whether NAFTA has fulfilled these expectations by examining its socioeconomic impact on workers in a Mexican border town.
Carolyn Tuttle led a group that interviewed 620 women maquila workers in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. The responses from this representative sample refute many of the hopeful predictions made by scholars before NAFTA and reveal instead that little has improved for maquila workers. The women’s stories make it plain that free trade has created more low-paying jobs in sweatshops where workers are exploited. Families of maquila workers live in one- or two-room houses with no running water, no drainage, and no heat. The multinational companies who operate the maquilas consistently break Mexican labor laws by requiring women to work more than nine hours a day, six days a week, without medical benefits, while the minimum wage they pay workers is insufficient to feed their families. These findings will make a crucial contribution to debates over free trade, CAFTA-DR, and the impact of globalization.
The digital storytelling project Humanizing Deportation invites migrants to present their own stories in the world’s largest and most diverse archive of its kind. Since 2017, more than 300 community storytellers have created their own audiovisual testimonial narratives, sharing their personal experiences of migration and repatriation. With Migrant Feelings, Migrant Knowledge, the project’s coordinator, Robert Irwin, and other team members introduce the project’s innovative participatory methodology, drawing out key issues regarding the human consequences of contemporary migration control regimes, as well as insights from migrants whose world-making endeavors may challenge what we think we know about migration.
In recent decades, migrants in North America have been treated with unprecedented harshness. Migrant Feelings, Migrant Knowledge outlines this recent history, revealing stories both of grave injustice and of seemingly unsurmountable obstacles overcome. As Irwin writes, “The greatest source of expertise on the human consequences of contemporary migration control are the migrants who have experienced them,” and their voices in this searing collection jump off the page and into our hearts and minds.
At the dawn of the twentieth century, the US-Mexico border was home to some of the largest and most technologically advanced industrial copper mines. This despite being geographically, culturally, and financially far-removed from traditional urban centers of power. Mining the Borderlands argues that this was only possible because of the emergence of mining engineers—a distinct technocratic class of professionals who connected capital, labor, and expertise.
Mining engineers moved easily between remote mining camps and the upscale parlors of east coast investors. Working as labor managers and technical experts, they were involved in the daily negotiations, which brought private US capital to the southwestern border. The success of the massive capital-intensive mining ventures in the region depended on their ability to construct different networks, serving as intermediaries to groups that rarely coincided.
Grossman argues that this didn’t just lead to bigger and more efficient mines, but served as part of the ongoing project of American territorial and economic expansion. By integrating the history of technical expertise into the history of the transnational mining industry, this in-depth look at borderlands mining explains how American economic hegemony was established in a border region peripheral to the federal governments of both Washington, D.C. and Mexico City.
Música norteña, a musical genre with its roots in the folk ballad traditions of Northern Mexico and the Texas-Mexican border region, has become a hugely popular musical style in the U.S., particularly among Mexican immigrants. Featuring evocative songs about undocumented border-crossers, drug traffickers, and the plight of immigrant workers, música norteña has become the music of a “nation between nations.” Música Norteña is the first definitive history of this transnational music that has found enormous commercial success in norteamérica.
Cathy Ragland, an ethnomusicologist and former music critic, serves up the fascinating fifty-year story of música norteña, enlivened by interviews with important musicians and her own first-hand observations of live musical performances. Beyond calling our attention to musical influences, Ragland shows readers the social and economic forces at work behind the music. By comparing música norteña with other popular musical forms, including conjunto tejano, she helps us understand and appreciate the musical ties that bind the Mexican diaspora.
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