Tag Archives: immigrants

Migrants using online communities to stay in touch with their Mexican villages

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Mexicans who have migrated to the United States from rural villages have been forming online communities to stay in touch with their families and friends back home. They log onto specific websites (such as that of Tlaltenango.com, above) to share photos, memories and send Yearbook-style greetings. In the process, they are reinforcing cultural, historic and emotional ties.

In some cases, the online communication is also providing a way of reinforcing democratic practices and political debate in Mexico. According to one study about the village of San Martin de Blonan~os, 13.26 percent of messages on that village’s independently-run web site included discussions about politics and accountability (A few examples: The alleged corruption of one of the mayoral candidate members and mine contamination in a local river). The study, by Mexican researcher Miriam Cardenas Torres, provides a fascinating look at the online dynamics of this particular Jalisco community and the technological barriers and benefits to such interaction.

I am not finding a recent link to the paper about San Martin de Bloan~os that I found earlier this year by Miriam Cardenas Torres. But here is a link to another study of hers that mentions San Martin de Bolan~os: “Transnational Migration and Communication” (in Spanish). An additional study by Victor Gonzalez an Luis Castro  – “Maintaining links through the Web: The case of the Mexican communities of immigrants in the United States” (in Spanish) – was published in the Journal of Community Informatices (2007).

Special thanks to Stephanie Elizondo Griest, author of “Mexican Enough.” Elizondo Griest mentioned Miriam Cardenas’ studies in her own book “Mexican Enough,” which I read earlier this year.

Cell phones across borders

 

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    Screen shot from YouTube site that has video of Los Pikadientes de Caborca

I’ve been doing a masters program at USC that specializes in online social networks, so I’m always thrilled when that topic merges with my long-standing interest in border subjects.

Vozmob, or Mobile Voices, is a project that provides a platform for low-wage immigrants in Los Angeles to publish stories and photos about their lives and communities through cell phones. The idea is that “marginalized populations lack access to digital technology yet aspire to participate meaningfully in the digital public sphere,” according to a project summary.

Here is an interview with USC professor Francois Bar, who explains the project in more depth.

Meanwhile USC professor Josh Kun recently wrote in The New York Times about how cell phones are creating new conduits for Mexican regional bands. The songs are uploaded to the phones or are used as ring tones. Then they spread virally through communities, underscoring how the regional Mexican industry is utilizing the cell phone as a “one-stop music source and symbol of working-class immigrant identity,” according to Kun’s story.

Kun, an expert in border culture topics, profiles the success of one of these bands, Los Pikadientes de Caborca, one of whose members readily admits that “we wouldn’t exist without cell phones and ring tones.”

 

* I work for USC’s media relations department but haven’t worked directly with these two professors * 

The border is everywhere

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There’s a tendency for us to get somewhat myopic about immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. We forget that these complex issues are playing out in other parts of the world in different yet equally-dramatic fashions.  NPR ran a three-part series this week about race and politics in Europe (access it here) that looks at how immigrants are changing the demographics of countries like Italy, Germany and France.  Over there, immigrants from Africa have to cross the sea to get to Europe. Closer to home, we have the border fence. I drove out to Playas de Tijuana this week to see how fortification there is changing the landscape. The photo at the top of this post shows older and newer fence sections. The photo below is of “Smuggler’s Gulch” where truckloads of dirt have created the equivalent of the Great Wall of China in what was once a hollow section of the border:

 

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Construction has started along Friendship Park, a part of the border that overlooks the ocean where families on both sides of the border have traditionally gathered to have picnics and converse through gaps in the older section of the fence. Here is a photo of what I saw looking into the United States park from the Mexican side. I’m not seeing so many amigos there:

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To read a recent story about the construction going on along the San Diego border, you can read this story by Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Marosi.  To learn more about the fate of Friendship Park, here is an Associated Press article by Elliot Spagat and another piece by San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Leslie Berenstein. Also, fellow blogger  Kinsee Morlan shares a video of the fence in her blog, Stairs to Nowhere.

***Update: Randal Archibold of The New York Times has a story about a border plan to address environmental harm along the border fence area. You can read it here. ***
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