Desktop version

Home arrow Political science

  • Increase font
  • Decrease font

<<   CONTENTS   >>

Amanda’s loneliness

Amanda, an Otomi woman, was only 13 years old when she arrived in Mexico City to employ herself as a domestic worker. Five years later, in 1999, a few

Accelerated migration to Nuevo New South 77 months pregnant, she crossed the border with her boyfriend Carlos. Carlos, also from San Pablito Pahuatlán, already had a trajectory as a construction industry worker in North Carolina, where the Sanpablitos concentrated in house and apartment painting services (Rivermar & Flores, 2015). In 2013 when we interviewed Amanda, she was 33 years old and had been living in Durham for 15 years, where her two children were born. Unlike other Pahuatecos/as, Amanda and Carlos did not invest what they had saved all those years in building a house in their hometown:

We haven’t built a house in the town because here, in Durham, we bought a house, because we have been here most of our life, and the children were bom here. We have finished paying for it, so as Carlos says: "every sacrifice has its reward,” because we worked a lot. Well, I worked a lot before. When I came here I worked at a cleaning company, from 7:00 in the morning until 9:00, 8:00 at night. Sometimes my children were already asleep when I came home.

(Amanda, Durham, NC, October 2013)

The first years in Durham were very difficult. As is usual among these poor migrants when they start their life in their new destination, the young couple shared a room with single men related to Carlos. Given the flexible, conjunctural and versatile nature of kinship ties, the fusion processes, the building and strengthening of intimate ties that underpin family conglomerates throughout a cycle are replaced over time by opposite processes. These latter processes are fission processes that loosen or erode intimate ties, segregating the parental or community aggregate in domestic groups with “nuclear” tendencies. As D’Argemir Comas & Pujadas Muñoz (1991) state, this occurs frequently in situations of ascending social mobility and search for social differentiation, once the critical stages of emigration and settlement are overcome.

The conjugal trajectory of Amanda and Carlos was an example of this erratic process with multiple exits and uncertainties: the beginning of organized life as a conjugal aggregate was a significant challenge. In households led by construction industry workers, the conjugal interaction was usually interrupted by frequent separations imposed by work contracts both in and out of state. The fluctuations in work demands in the construction industry, especially during the economic upheaval of 2007-2009, meant that males must take part in temporary displacements. Amanda describes the work conditions and absences of her husband:

Just now Carlos came back from Pennsylvania, he was gone for six weeks. He says he was very tired, he worked Saturdays and Sundays, starting at 7:00 or 6:30 in the morning and finishing until 9:00 at night, so he didn’t have any time off. The contractor has properties nearby, in Virginia and there in Pennsylvania as well. I suppose he trusts my husband or likes how they work, that's why he asks them to go do the job there. And he didn’t come back at all for six weeks.

(Amanda, 33 years old, Durham, NC, October 2013)

Given the frequent absences of the men, the women cared for the children and carried out the daily maintenance of the home by themselves. Living in loneliness, sometimes being unable to travel from one place to another due to the lack of a vehicle or a driver’s license, with difficulties accessing sendees given their lack of competence in English, there were bitter memories for the first Pahuatecas and Otomies who settled in Durham in the 1990s. Amanda had to deal with loneliness and isolation during her first years there, before finding work cleaning houses and having her own vehicle.

I’m usually alone, because in the company where he used to work before, he went to Virginia, to Charlotte. When Carlos’ father died, he left me here alone, when my children were very young. He went to Mexico [for two months] and I couldn't find a job, it seems like all the doors I go to are locked for me, I mean the only thing left for me to do was cry or I don’t know what to do. It’s difficult to live here and not know anyone and even worse when one doesn’t speak the language. This place isn’t for me, I spent almost my entire life in Mexico City and coming here and seeing all this, it’s totally different. There, you see people, but here nothing, when one comes here, one doesn't have a car. One struggles to get a ride. Now there are many people who speak Spanish, but before, if you don’t speak English, you had to wait one, two, even three hours for an interpreter. When I got pregnant with my oldest son I felt so useless when I had to go to a clinic or a store. Now it is very different from when getting here for the first time, there are many Hispanics.

(Amanda, 33 years old, Durham, NC, October 2013)

The individual and group movements of these migrants, as reported by Griffith (2005, p. 53) associated with the rhythms of the construction and agro-industry, combined with the growth of the resident population, enabled the consolidation of internal markets in these sui generis communities of recent settlement in the New South. These community arrangements offer rides for those without vehicles or driver’s licenses, cheap home cooked meals, health and childcare, and other daily consumption services; in short, they provide ways of establishing community ties.

<<   CONTENTS   >>

Related topics