Saints and children beyond borders? Zapotec ways of dealing with "stuckness" in Los Angeles
Franziska Bedorf (Freie Universität Berlin)
Paper short abstract:
Living in the United States as an undocumented migrant from Mexico greatly affects people's mobility, constraining their geographical scope of action. Examining a Zapotec community in Los Angeles, I seek to investigate alternative forms of movements arising in this state of immobility.
Paper long abstract:
For the roughly six million Mexican migrants living in the U.S. without legal documentation, their legal status has significant implications for their (in)ability to travel to Mexico: Since the United States started implementing more repressive border control measures in the 1980s, many have considered visiting Mexico too risky. They have become immobilized, confined to a life within the U.S. borders. Based on fieldwork on a community of Zapotec Mexican migrants in Los Angeles, I seek to explore how its members deal with the situation of living geographically constrained lives and how this "stuckness" impacts the community. Despite being immobilized, mobility characterizes people's lives. Patron saint festivities on the one hand and the second generation on the other play a crucial role in this respect. First, patron saint fiestas that are celebrated in the Mexican home town and have become an integral part of community life in L.A. have not only given rise to cross-border flows in terms of cultural traditions such as dances and music. The celebrations are moreover linked with the movement of money and goods between Mexico and the U.S., with affective connections, with political power vested across borders, and with social status, upward mobility and community building in the U.S. setting. A second dimension of movement despite legal constraints is the second generation, people's U.S. born children, who are able to travel in place of their parents. These forms of mobility within "stuckness" might contribute to an enhanced sense of agency.
Stuck in a mobile world: the agentive potential of immobility