@article{Rivera-Salgado1999, author="Gaspar Rivera-Salgado", title="Mixtec activism in Oaxacalifornia: transborder grassroots political strategies", year="1999", journal="The American Behavioral Scientist", volume="42-9", number="June-July", pages="1439-58", annote="

Question(s) addressed by the author and working arguments

This article analyzes the experience of indigenous migrant workers from the state of Oaxaca who have formed permanent communities in northern Mexico and in California. It focuses specifically on the experience of the Mixtec transnational community whose participation in the Frente Indígena Oaxaqueño Binacional has strengthened and changed the ethnic identities that hold together these communities across a fractured geography of different borders and has served as one of the bases to organize across these transnational borders.

The article seeks to accomplish four goals. First, it will discuss the theoretical implications of transnational approaches to migration. It will also provide the political context of the transnational activism of indigenous migrant farmworkers. The article will then explain in more detail the context of indigenous migration from Mexico to the United States. Finally, it will discuss specific examples of transnational activism and its impact on politics in the communities of origin and destiny. This analysis contributes to an understanding of how the activism of transnational political organizations promotes the construction of new political alliances along ethnic lines in a post-melting-pot California and the consolidation of indigenous migrant organizations within the context of increasing U.S.-Mexican economic integration.

Conceptual references to transnational – transnationalism

Recent literature on international migration has focused on the emergence of transnational communities. These studies have furthered our understanding about transnational action, community building, and the formation of transnational political communities in the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

In this literature, transnationalism is defined as “the process by which immigrants forge and sustain multi-stranded social relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement”. At the heart of the transnational approach to international migration is the argument that the current restructuring of global capital produces a new set of political, economic, and social relations between the sending communities and governments and the citizens abroad.

At the same time, transnationalism reminds us that migrants remain heavily involved in the life of their countries of origin even though they no longer permanently live there. Transnational social relations thus allow migrants to develop and maintain multiple relations in more than one nation-state. It is also argued that the present transnational migration represents a different experience from those of past migrations: it now involves the constant movement of people and heightens social and economic dependence between transmigrants and nation-states within a field of global social networks.

The process by which immigrants build social fields that link together their countries of origin and their countries of settlement are the product of the current global capitalist system and have created a situation in which migrants construct, maintain, and reproduce transnational links as a response to shifts in the global economy. The global restructuring of capital has created dislocations in industrialized states (deindustrialization) and in the Third World (economic adjustment programs), giving rise to increased migration in a context of economic vulnerability in both host and sending states, and has “increased the likelihood that migrants would construct a transnational existence”

While politicians and government officials are engaged in nation-building projects, transmigrants themselves construct transnational identities. In some ways, for indigenous migrant workers and for Mixtecs in particular, the development of transnational communities is paralleled by the transnationalization of labor-intensive fruit and vegetable production. The ability of Mixtec indigenous communities to adapt to the transnational process of migration is closely related to the high degree of autonomy they have traditionally exercised to regulate their internal affairs.

As can be seen, the political practices of the transnational indigenous migrant organizations have gone far beyond the recent attempts by the Mexican state to recognize the particular situation of millions of Mexicans who have been incorporated in the U.S bound migratory process.

Conclusions or Final Remarks

To expand the transnationalist approach to immigration, this article grounds the experience of Mixtec transnational communities in history and social structure rather than in identity concerns, illustrating the way in which ethnicity influences the process of migration, settlement, and political behavior among Mexican migrants. The research also shows that indigenous migrants have done better than other mestizo Mexican migrants in developing binational grassroots organizations to defend their political and economic rights. On one hand, long-term transnational migration is not reducing ethnicity but instead is causing it to emerge and intensify. On the other hand, the political activism of these indigenous migrants is also transforming their communities of origin dramatically, allowing for the emergence of new forms of transnational political communities due to the transnational political practice.

", keyword0="Immigration", keyword1="Migrants", keyword2="Research", type="journal" }