On Migrant Imaginaries by Schmidt-Camacho and Borderlands/La Frontera by Anzaldua
In Migrant Imaginaries Schmidt-Camacho provides a view on the transnational movements of Mexican migrants toward United States from the 1920s onwards. The relationship between the Mexican culture and the social movements created by the migration is analyzed through the focus on some important historical moments (the 1930s, the Chicano Movement, contemporary globalization and neoliberalism).
Borderlands/la Frontera is a text that deals with the concept of ‘border’ not only in the physical but also in the figurative meaning; Anzaldua uses her own experiences as a Chicana, as a lesbian and as an activist to challenge the conception of a border as a simple divide. In both texts, what stands up most is how identity could be a difficult concept to define due to the implication that the migration and the condition of migrant dictate on people. What does the term “identity” mean for a migrant?
This is the question, that in my opinion is raised by the reading of the works by Schmidt-Camacho and Anzaldua. Usually identity is an umbrella term used throughout the social sciences to describe a person’s conception and expression of their individuality or group affiliations (such as national identity and cultural identity). But this conception of identity is challenged everyday in migrant communities by the circumstances of their lifestyle in a different country and to define it correctly one have to analyze all the consequences of the cross-boarding.
In order to outline the different ways both texts lead to a deep comprehension of the concept of Identity in migrant communities, I will develop the ideas of migrant melancholia and mestiza consciousness, as they are provided from the texts, comparing and contrasting the two points of views and pointing out how in the end both concepts are useful to define the status of migrant. Migrant melancholia as defined by Camacho as, “… an emergent mode of migrant subjectivity that contests the dehumanizing effects of the unauthorized border crossing. ” (286).
The condition of border crosser causes a sort of depression that derives from the consciousness, of the necessity of emigration. By leaving their home country, migrants mark the “the loss of a social contract…behind their willful journey away from the spaces of communal belonging and citizenship, the specter of state failure looms large”. Mexican migrants are pushed to leave their home country by the inadequacy of the economic situation, “the ethical imperative to survive cannot conform to the geopolitical fiction of sovereign borders”. Due to the U. S. mmigration policies making the possibility of circular migration unavailable to many migrants, once accepted in to the U. S. , migrants fear they will not be allowed to re enter the U. S. , should they return to Mexico. Migrants move to settle for ever and the home country turn into a beloved object whose loss is mourned as the one of a beloved relative. The relationship between the migrant, his home country and the new country in which he moves is shaped by the circumstances of the border-crossing as well as the new conditions that the migrant faces in his new life.
In Borderland/la Frontera Anzaldua describes the complexity of being a Mestiza. To fully understand the text is necessary first to analyze what the term means and what are the implication of labeling someone as a mestizo; according to an article published on the Feminist Theory Keyword website (a project by Women’s Studies students at Portland State University) by using the word Mestiza Anzaldua is automatically expressing a multitudes of races and enclosing in this one word a series of cultural and ideological consequences. You can think of it as a contradiction within itself. Because as a Mestiza you do not belong to one category but intertwine with a range of others. However, this does not bring absolute acceptance. A Mestiza has indigenous ancestry but also shares current civilization blood and traditions. She is ambiguous and has no actual place she can call home. Like a drifting spirit she spends her time trying to figure out who she is, where she belongs and how she got in this current situation”.
Both concepts of migrant melancholia and mestiza consciousness deal with the difficulty of find an only definition for the identity of the migrants, the ones who are leaving their own country but even the ones who are already settled in a new land. The struggle between who they really are, their origins, traditions, the attachment to their home country and what they are forced to be and to do by life circumstances. Workers who try to integrate in a society that points at them as aliens that belong to a different reality.
Another topic that both books highlight is how the established power of state governments challenge the identity of migrants. In Migrant imaginaries the focus is on how the Mexican state pushes their citizens to run away from their country by being unable to provide social security amongst other things. Furthermore this text shows the emotional plight of the migrants, particularly their feelings of disappointment in their home state. Whereas in Borderland/La Frontera the text discusses the difficulties faced by migrants once they have crossed the border into the U. S. as well as their feelings when they try to integrate into the new society. The two books address different perspectives of the migrants journey, Schmidt-Camacho is more concerned in criticizing the historical and economical issues that derive from the migration, while Azaldua deals with the emotional consequences of these social movements. From this the reader can fully understand the two different pressures placed upon the migrants when moving between cultures.