Mark Overmyer-Velázquez, Professor in History and El Instituto and Director of UConn’s Hartford regional campus, is completing a revised and expanded version of his book Beyond la Frontera: The History of Mexico-US Migration (Oxford UP, 2011) for Spanish translation with the Editoriales del Colegio de San Luis and Colegio de la Frontera del Norte. Among other revisions, Professor Velázquez has recruited former El Instituto graduate students, Dr. Jennifer Cook and Luisa Arrieta, to help him update the introductory chapter to bring the work’s theme up to the current year. Cook researched and contributed a section on developments in migratory trends since the volume’s original 2011 publication. Similarly, Arrieta updated the work’s annotated chronology.
Mexican migration to the United States has comprised the world’s largest sustained movement of migratory workers in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. As part of the post-World War II massive wave of migrants from across Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, in recent decades Mexicans have comprised by far the largest migrant group in the United States. Although frequently cast as peripheral to projects of nation-state formation and consolidation, over the past 170 years Mexican migrants and migration have played central roles in the economic and political development of both countries.
Given the vital role migration plays for so many Mexicans, Velázquez sees the need for a Spanish-language study that offers an expansive, binational historical perspective on migratory trends and practices as they developed in Mexico and the United States since the mid-nineteenth century. The interdisciplinary chapters in this volume provide that perspective. Construyendo el Gran México: La emigración mexicana a Estados Unidos will expand upon nation-bound historiographies by applying broad, transnational historical points of view to examine the impact of migratory trends as they developed in Mexico and the United States.
It is impossible to know how Mexicans have become a dominant demographic presence and growing political and economic power in the contemporary United States without examining the multiple historical paths past generations chose to take on their way to el Norte. Furthermore, it is equally important to examine how scholars, politicians, and others have thought about and framed the historical narrative of Mexican migration: its inclusion and exclusion in national histories, periodization, and causation. By offering broad historical overviews of the subject, Construyendo el Gran México will provide students, scholars, and general readers an important resource and points of departure for future in-depth translocal and transnational studies.
The Mexican American scholar Américo Paredes aptly named this space of historical transnational relationship, “Greater Mexico.” The longstanding demographic overlap and “intertwined notions of ethnic identity, political orientation, and national affiliation” are all fundamental elements of the mutually constitutive migratory histories of Gran México. The book’s chapters engage this history in both a chronological and a thematic manner with reference to mutually influential periods in Mexican and Mexican American history.
The volume’s final section turns to a discussion of Trump era debates. The President famously began his candidacy for president with the statement, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” Since his inauguration, Trump has translated rhetoric to proposals, initiating hundreds of policy changes in support of a hardline nativist agenda, in the tradition of Samuel Huntington’s view that Mexicans and Mexican immigrants are an existential threat to the “the United States’ Anglo-Protestant culture and the creed.” Trump’s policy changes have been accomplished through a variety of strategies, including executive decisions, policy memos, regulatory and administrative changes, and other measures – all unilaterally, without approval by Congress. The damage to democracy is disturbing but more traumatic still was the separation of thousands of children from their family members, which followed Trump’s directive to jail all unauthorized border crossers for criminal prosecution.
In documenting the enduring transnational phenomenon of migration, the contributions to this volume teach us that such short-term, unilateral solutions for the sake of political expediency are doomed to failure. The damage added to the already destructive effects of America’s existing deportation regime adds urgency to an already long-deferred progressive agenda, which utilizes multilateral negotiations to remedy long-standing economic inequalities; corrects historically based legislation at the national level that positions Mexicans and other migrants as illegal, vulnerable, and racialized subjects; and promotes human and workplace rights at the local level.