The Politics of Return, Retention, and Reincorporation: Reconsidering the Mexican State’s Relation to Out-Migration

Endorsed by the Immigration and Ethnic History Society (IEHS) and Western History Association

Thursday, March 31, 2022, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Type: Virtual Session

Tags: Borderlands; Immigration and Internal Migration; Latino/a


Pre-circulated session: The panel interrogates the notion that Mexico purposefully used emigration as a "safety valve" throughout the 20th century. Morales looks at Mexican repatriation campaigns as a way to complicate that frame. Mendez examines the overpopulation the Bracero Program generated in Mexicali and the responses the Baja Californian and federal governments engineered to make use of it; Gutierrez shows how the Mexican state cautiously handled the repatriation of braceros infirm with polio or STDs. Ibarguen looks at federal Mexican initiatives in the 1970s and the discourse around them, explicitly geared around the idea of slowing down migration to the U.S.

Session Participants

Chair and Commentator: Rosina Lozano, Princeton University
Rosina Lozano is a historian of Latino history with a research and teaching focus on Mexican American history, the American West, migration and immigration, and comparative studies in race and ethnicity.

Lozano's first book, An American Language: The History of Spanish in the United States (University of California Press, 2018), is a political history of the Spanish language in the United States from the incorporation of the Mexican cession in 1848 through World War II, with some discussion of the following decades and present-day concerns. The nation has always been multilingual, and Spanish-language rights, in particular, have remained an important political issue into the present. The book is organized in two parts. The first five chapters argue that Spanish was a language of politics in the U.S. Southwest following the U.S. takeover. The second half of the book transitions to exploring the multifaceted use of Spanish in the twentieth century as it became a political language that instigated local and national political debates related to immigration and Americanization and aided the hemispheric interests of the nation.

An American Language received the PROSE award in Language and Linguistics (2019) and the First Book Prize from the Immigration and Ethnic History Society. Lozano was featured on Al Punto with Jorge Ramos and has given numerous academic and public talks about her book.

Lozano is working on a second book, tentatively titled Intertwined Roots: Mexican Americans and Native Americans in the Southwest, which tells the story of the ever-changing relationship between Mexican Americans and Native peoples from 1848 through the 1970s. The results of U.S. policies for each of these groups are well known separately, but Intertwined Roots considers them relationally, never forgetting that their connections preceded these policies and continued to form independent of them, too. Through the comparison, the book also explores the impact of state and federal politics on ethnic identities. Triangulating the analysis of Anglos, Mexican Americans, and Native Americans offers the opportunity to understand how local and state power has shaped the Southwest against the backdrop of federal policy.

Lozano has received fellowships from the Huntington Library and the New Mexico Office of the State Historian to aid her research. During the 2012-2013 academic year, Lozano held a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation that she completed at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE) at Stanford University.

Presenter: Laura D. Gutiérrez, University of the Pacific
Laura D. Gutiérrez earned her PhD from the University of California, San Diego, where she also was a fellow at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies in 2015-2016 and a participant in the Mexican Migration Field Research Program. Her book manuscript, "A Constant Threat: Deportation and Return Migration from the U.S. to Northern Mexico, 1918-1965" examines how the forced and voluntary return of Mexican migrants from the U.S. affected cities and communities in Mexico. Focusing on individuals and communities affected by forced removal reveals new facets of the complex social, economic, and political problems posed by policies of border enforcement. Her work has been supported by a number of fellowships and awards from sources such as the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States, the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, the Tinker Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Presenter: Irvin Ibargüen, New York University
Irvin Ibarguen is a historian of the Americas, with interests in migration, transnational phenomena, and government policies to regulate these. His book project—Faucet Politics: The Fight for Mexico’s Migratory Flows, 1940-1970—rescues the history of businesses, politicians, peasants and other people in Mexican society who opposed large-scale Mexican migration to the U.S. and sought to orchestrate the movement of Mexican people more fruitfully within Mexico. It reveals the decades-long process that played out across the U.S., Mexico, and Borderlands, as actors and institutions along that continuum engaged in what he terms “faucet politics,” the practice of using policy as a tap to open, close, or adjust migratory flows— indeed, coming into struggle as those Mexican elements seeking to corral their migratory compatriots within Mexico were forced to contend with American political and economic elites keen on perpetuating the movement of Mexican people to the U.S. His writing has received the support of the Mexican Government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Harvard Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. At New York University, he teaches courses on Latino/a history, the spatial turn, and modern American history.

Presenter: Alina R. Mendez, University of Washington
Alina R. Méndez specializes in Mexican American history with a focus on migration, labor, and relational racial formation. She received her PhD in US History from UC San Diego and BA in Latin American History from UC Berkeley. Her dissertation, titled “Cheap for Whom? Migration, Farm Labor, and Social Reproduction in the Imperial Valley-Mexicali Borderlands, 1942-1969,” was the recipient of the 2018 Chancellor’s Dissertation Award for the Division of Arts and Humanities at UC San Diego and the 2019 Herbert G. Gutman Prize for Outstanding Dissertation from the Labor and Working-Class History Association. Dr. Méndez is currently revising her dissertation into a book manuscript. Her research has received support from the Ford Foundation, the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, the Fulbright Program, the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States, and the Archie Green Fund for Labor Culture and History.

Presenter: Daniel Morales, Virginia Commonwealth University
Daniel Morales is an Assistant professor of History in the Department of History where he teaches courses in Latino history, Immigration, and United States and Latin American history. When teaching issues of migration, race and ethnicity, politics and nation, he emphasizes the importance of critical thinking and seeking understanding of difficult sociopolitical issues in our time. His research focuses on the social and economic history of migration between Latin America and the United States. His upcoming book, "The Making of Mexican America: The Dynamics of Transnational Migration 1900-1940" examines the creation of transnational migratory networks across Mexico and the United States in the twentieth century.

He is a member of the JMU Latino Caucus, Latin American Studies faculty, and works with the Shenandoah Valley Scholars' Latino Initiative, the Immigrant Harrisonburg Project, and Sin Barreras in Charlottesville.

He is from California, and recieved a Ph.D in History from Columbia University in 2016. M.Phil. in 2012 and M.A. in 2011, and B.A. at the University of Chicago in 2008. Before JMU, he worked at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.