<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b>Approaches to Transborder Lives</b> <p> <p> <i>San Agustn Atenango: Three Generations on the Move</i> <p> San Agustn Atenango straddles a paved road that runs between Huajuapan de Len and Santiago Juxtlahuaca in the Mixteca Baja region of Oaxaca-<i>paved</i> being a relative term in some stretches that sport pot-holes wide enough to lose a pig in. During the past several years enterprising migrant workers from the region have used their U.S. earnings to set up an efficient system of regional transportation between Oaxaca City, the state capital, and this region. Several privately owned regional transport companies equipped with fleets of new Ford and Toyota vans shuttle passengers between terminals in downtown Oaxaca to regional destinations. To travel to San Agustn, you purchase a ticket in Oaxaca and get into the van with ten to twelve people bound for the Mixteca. The group often includes students who may be returning home from studying in Oaxaca, men and women carrying large bundles of things they have bought or are selling, families, and others. Leaving Oaxaca, the van cruises along the new <i>autopista</i>, or superhighway, to Mexico City, zooming past trucks, and eventually enters dry countryside. One hour out of Oaxaca, outside of Asuncin Nochixtln, it moves off of the autopista and onto regional two-lane roads. Two and a half hours after leaving Oaxaca, the van pauses for about fifteen minutes to pick up passengers in Huajuapan de Len and then heads down a winding two-lane highway for Juxtlahuaca. The ride to San Agustn takes about four to four and a half hours-depending on the potholes and the weather. The van stops right at the edge of town and then bolts down the road to its next stop. <p> Passengers get down from the van and proceed first downhill and then uphill, walking down one of the two newly paved roads that run from the highway into the center of town. On the ten-minute walk into the town center, one passes many two-story houses in various state of completion. Some are occupied and equipped with satellite dishes perched on top. More than half are empty, being watched by neighbors or relatives in the absence of their owners, who are invariably somewhere in <i>el Norte</i>, the largest clusters of <i>paisanos</i> residing in Santa Mara, Madera, Los Angeles, and Vista, California; Flagstav and Grand Canyon, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; Salem, Keizer, Woodburn, and Portland, Oregon; and Chicago, Illinois. <p> In the center of town most of the buildings and businesses show signs of recent investment: new awnings on small stores advertising the name of the store and type of merchandise, vehicles parked on the street, new dining and living room sets prominently visible through open front doors and windows, newly imported appliances for sale. Several privately owned public address systems blare out current bargains to be found in local businesses or calls to help find lost cattle, turkeys, or pigs. Sometimes the speaker systems berate someone for "finding" a lost animal that is not theirs and failing to return it. The local food market has few stalls and little business beyond that done by taco stands. Most people make their purchases in the ever-expanding sectors of small stores found on almost every block. The commercial sector is growing through private investment in family-run stores financed by a steady stream of remittances. Finding a clientele, however, is not always an easy task, as the town is often half empty. <p> The upper parts of the community are crossed by roads that lead out of town and up into the surrounding mountains and peaks, each with a Mixtec name and very specific history and significance. In the upper reaches of the community there are smaller houses, some with cane-walled kitchens attached to them and others with concrete rooms and roofs connected to older adobe structures. Many of the cane-walled kitchens used to be the primary house structure. There are fewer satellite dishes here, and no vehicles are parked in front of these homes because the only way to get here is on footpaths that wind upward. <p> At the end of one of these footpaths, high above town and affording a sweeping view, I find Pedro Martnez Morales and Ermelinda Reyes Ramrez, his wife, sitting on their front step weaving hats out of palm fronds. The light is fading, but they are content to sit on the front step and weave. As I approach them, accompanied by their granddaughter Laura, they complain about how hot their new concrete house is. "We never sit inside," says Ermelinda in Mixtec to Laura. "It's like an oven. We prefer to be out here." Laura explains to me that her grandmother didn't want to give up her old house, so the cane-walled house still stands, as does the kitchen. We begin to talk about who has come and gone from San Agustn over the past sixty years. Born in 1907, Pedro is one of the oldest men in the community, and his perspective is a sobering one. He begins to talk of going to Orizaba and Cordoba, Veracruz, to cut sugarcane. Back and forth he went, taking his children. <p> Below I have reproduced parts of conversations I had with Pedro and Ermelinda, Petrona, his daughter, and Laura, his granddaughter. All three generations in this family and in most others in the community have had lives that involve working for long periods of time each year in another part of Mexico or the United States or both and returning periodically to San Agustn to get married, build homes, tend to fields, help sick loved ones, bury the dead, celebrate the fiesta of the town's patron saint, and run the local government and services. Pedro's and Ermelinda's extended family is composed of several dozen people, including their children and grandchildren. What I hope to show by counter-posing these three interrelated stories is the utter normality of people living and working for significant periods of time in places other than their homes, places ranging from Orizaba and Cordoba, Veracruz, to Culiacn, Sinaloa, to Ensenada, Baja California, to San Diego, Oxnard, Watsonville, and Chicago. Within this one extended family, there is shared knowledge and experience about these places, even if everyone has not been to every place. Most important, the ability to construct space, time, and social relations in more than one place simultaneously is a part of the daily framing of life in this extended family as well as in others. And it has been for quite some time. <p> In their almost six decades of collective experience negotiating a wide range of borders, including within the states of Mexico, across the U.S.-Mexican border, and in different regions of the United States, Laura, Petrona, Pedro, and Ermelinda have carried with them cultural and linguistic elements of home in San Agustn and have also incorporated a wide range of other knowledges into their repertoire for defining who they are and what the important values of life are and for deciding how they want to live in the future. They have crossed racial and ethnic boundaries within Mexico that have followed them to the United States. They have crossed class and regional economic boundaries as they have been inserted as workers into different kinds of agricultural production systems and service sector economies at different points in time. They have crossed the boundaries of the nation-state as they move between countries. They have negotiated changes in technologies of travel and communication through time. <p> For this reason, I characterize their lives and those of others represented in this book as transborder rather than just simply transnational. The borders they cross are ethnic, class, cultural, colonial, and state borders within Mexico as well as at the U.S.-Mexico border and in different regions of the United States. Regional systems of racial and ethnic hierarchies within the United States are different from those in Mexico and can also vary within the United States. Thus the ways that "Mexicans" and "Indians" have been codified in California and Oregon can diver from how they have been historically built into racial and ethnic hierarchies in New York or Florida. While crossing national borders is one kind of crossing undertaken by the subjects of this book, there are many others as well. <p> <p> PEDRO MARTNEZ MORALES AND ERMELINDA REYES RAMREZ <p> PEDRO: I went to Veracruz to cut cane. I already had my kids ... [about 1949]. I went several times to cut cane. Later I went to Culiacn [Sinaloa] with my daughter to harvest crops. My children have traveled all over. ERMELINDA: Yes. We have two or three grandchildren in Chicago. We went to Chicago. It is really cold in Chicago. A lot of snow falls there. My daughter-in-law lives there, please say hello to her [I had previously told Ermelinda that I grew up in the Chicago area]. LYNN: Ok. Next time I am there I hope I will see her and be able to pass along your saludos. ERMELINDA: You know, we stayed there for six months. We didn't like it there. We couldn't get used to the cold and the food there. It is better here. <p> PETRONA MARTNEZ REYES <i>(Daughter of Pedro and Ermelinda, Age 62)</i> PETRONA: When I was six years old we went to cut cane in Veracruz [1949]. I got married at the age of fifteen. After that I went to Veracruz again to cut cane with my first daughter. I spent five years in Veracruz between the ages of fifteen and twenty cutting cane, and tying it in bundles. This is what I did.... Later we went to another place. I was older when we went to Culiacn. I had three daughters by then. They were working as well. We built this house herein San Agustn with the money we made in Culiacn [Sinaloa]. Two of my daughters also worked there as well. We spent about four or five years in Culiacn. When the work would finish in Culiacn, then we would go to Ensenada. We came back here to build the house for a while. We started to make the adobe bricks to build it. We would go work there and then come back here for a month. LYNN: How would you go back and forth? Did you go with someone? PETRONA: A contractor would come here with a bus. He would take us to work. We didn't have to pay for the bus ride. When we finished working in Culiacn he would bring us back here. I spent about ten or fifteen years doing this. We would work for nine months in Culiacn, and then the other months we would be here making palm hats to sell. If we weren't doing that, then we went to La Paz [Baja California Sur] to pick cotton. We went there for two years and came back. Then from 1994 to 1997 I went to Oxnard, California. My children started to go there little by little as well. I went there with one of my daughters. I also worked in the strawberry harvest and picking vegetables in Watsonville. It was neither good nor bad for me there. The pay was more or less okay. When we worked in Culiacn, we couldn't save anything. I would like to go back to Watsonville. But because my mother and father [Ermelinda and Pedro] are here, I can't leave here. I have to be here for them. My father is sick. If they are going to die, I don't want them to say that I was not here for them.... You know, I grew to be old working so much. I moved around so much. <p> LAURA RUIZ MARTNEZ <i>(Age 28)</i> LAURA: I was born in 1976. When I was six years old my parents and my five sisters all went to Culiacn. We went for six months. When I was twelve years old I remember that we went to Culiacn to harvest tomatoes. We arrived and they put me to work right away. From the time I was twelve until I was seventeen we went every year. When I was seventeen I came here to San Agustn for one year. I was here for a little more than a year when we needed money. I decided I wanted to build a house, so I went north. In 1995 I went to San Diego. My sister Adela was there, and she was the only one who received amnesty. I stayed for a month with her and my other sisters. Then I went to look for work. I found a job through one of my sisters. <p> It was good work. I worked at the same job for three years. From Monday through Saturday I took care of children. They gave me a room and food. One of the children was six and the other one was three when I started. It worked out well for me. For some of my other friends it didn't go so well. They had a lot of problems with their patrones [employers/bosses]. They wouldn't let my friends ever leave. My employer would leave me alone with the kids. They were in the Air Force. Sometimes I would be there for eight days alone with the kids. On Sunday I would always go and hang out with my sisters. They paid me $150 per week. I worked from six in the morning until ten at night for six days.... I came back to the pueblo when my Dad got really sick (in 1998). I haven't been back in the United States since then. <p> <p> For Laura, Petrona, Pedro, and Ermelinda, living in multiple localities and discontinuous social, economic, and cultural spaces is the norm. What is a challenge for the ethnographer is to try to capture their understandings and experiences (see Besserer 2002, 2004). They and many others have worked out a social world that exists within a multisited existence. Their community of origin, San Agustn Atenango, does not exist in one geographic place but is now spread out throughout multiple sites in the United States and Mexico. Their hometown is both a real and symbolic site that draws people back repeatedly in many senses, but which is also represented by multilayered forms of social and political organization that may include a federated transborder public works committee in ten U.S. cities as well as in several locations in Mexico, all linked to San Agustn in Oaxaca. We can think of each location of San Agustn as a home and as a locality in its own right with real senses of the local. But these multiple homes of San Agustn are also discontinuous spaces linked through kinship, ritual, cycles of labor, and individual and collectives resources of material and symbolic means. <p> <p> <i>Border Crossers in Teotitln del Valle</i> <p> The marketplace in Teotitln del Valle is bustling at 9:00 a.m. This is the peak hour for daily shopping. The stalls inside are spilling over with fruits, vegetables, freshly cut meat, dried fish from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, fresh-cut flowers, and dried chiles spread out on the floor for people to smell and touch. Since the mid-1990s, new parts of the market have developed. An ever-expanding section offering traditional prepared foods such as <i>atole</i>, refried beans, and <i>tamales</i> also includes several hamburger stands and small-scale restaurants. The prepared foods section is filled with women of all ages, but a significant sector of the customers are younger, married women who no longer rise at four in the morning to grind two kilos of corn for tortillas and atole. Some are return migrants who got accustomed to simply reaching into the refrigerator for breakfast in the United States. Many came from households in which their husbands or other relatives may have been responsible for feeding breakfast to their children while they left the house at 6:00 A.M. to make a 7:00 A.M. housecleaning shift or to go care for someone else's children. As women came back from the United States and no longer wanted to spend six hours per day in food preparation and a demand for prepared food developed, other women who never left and had the economic means also began to purchase more prepared food. Some are using remittances sent home from family members living and working in the United States. Others are using income earned from textile weaving, which is the other major engine of economic activity besides economic remittances from the United States. Teotitln is integrated with a complex global production, marketing, and, distribution system linking the community to large-scale importer-exporters based primarily in the western United States and to consumers in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere (see Stephen 2005b). <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>TRANSBORDER LIVES</b> by <b>Lynn Stephen</b> Copyright © 2007 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.