Gender(ed) Migrations: Shifting Gender Subjectivities in a Transnational Mexican Community (Working Paper #100)

Deborah A. Boehm, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies

Abstract: In this paper, I discuss findings about gender subjectivities and gender relations among transnational Mexicans in San Luis Potosí, Mexico and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Drawing on ethnographic data, I outline the transforming roles of women and men within a community of Mexican “transmigrants” (Glick Schiller, Basch, Blanc-Szanton 1995: 48). I will argue that masculinity is both reconstituted and compromised by immigration to the United States, which in turn, simultaneously liberates and puts new controls on women, redefining femininity and what it means to be a woman. In a Mexican rancho, men are expected to migrate, and the masculinity of those who do not go north is called into question. Paradoxically, men may have their masculinity stripped from them once they are in the United States, as they leave behind their role as farmers to work in low-wage jobs. Meanwhile, women who stay in Mexico face new burdens alongside increased freedoms: still responsible for domestic chores and child care, women take on tasks that were previously understood as the sphere of men, such as farming and managing finances. The lives of women living in the United States also transform—they are often in wage labor for the first time, and their roles in the family are notably altered. Rosa’s assertion—“¡Ya soy hombre y mujer!/Now I am a man and a woman!”—underscores how (im)migration is bringing about striking changes in gender identities.

Working Paper #100»