Indigenous Mexican migrant civil society in the US
This essay explores the diversity within Mexican migrant civil society in the US. Multiple collective identities sustain distinct but sometimes overlapping translocal, regional, religious, civic, class-based and ethnic organizations. The point of departure is that our analytical frameworks need to catch up with this increasingly dense and diverse world of social actors. Both Mexican migrant and Mexican indigenous collective identities complicate widely held ideas about race, ethnicity and national identity. Though these three concepts are often used interchangeably when discussing Mexicans in the United States, race, ethnicity and national identity are not synonyms. If they are analytically distinct, where and when does one leave off and the other begin? When migrant and indigenous identities overlap, as in the case of indigenous Mexican migrants, these conceptual puzzles are sharpened. A comparative and hemispheric approach suggests that it is useful to look at the specific experiences and identities of indigenous Mexican migrants in the US through lenses that draw both from frameworks that focus on processes of racialization and from those that emphasize the social construction of collective identities based on ethnicity, region or religion. The essay is organized around a series of conceptual questions that emerged from the convergence between two long-term parallel UC Santa Cruz projects. The first is a faculty working group known as Hemispheric Dialogues, which tries to facilitate intellectual exchange by making conceptual assumptions explicit. 2 The second is an action-research partnership with the Oaxacan Indigenous Binational Front. 3 The essay concludes by stepping back to explore different dimensions of Mexican migrant civil society more generally through three concepts: transnationalism vs. long-distance nationalisms, parallel vs. simultaneous binationality, and the role of cross-border counterparts.