Migrant Imaginaries

Latino Cultural Politics in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

388 pages

July, 2008

ISBN: 9780814716496



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Alicia Schmidt Camacho is Sarai Ribicoff Associate Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Race, and Migration at Yale University.

All books by Alicia Schmidt Camacho

Winner of the 2009 Lora Romero First Book Prize from the American Studies Association

2009 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Migrant Imaginaries explores the transnational movements of Mexican migrants in pursuit of labor and civil rights in the United States from the 1920s onward. Working through key historical moments such as the 1930s, the Chicano Movement, and contemporary globalization and neoliberalism, Alicia Schmidt Camacho examines the relationship between ethnic Mexican expressive culture and the practices sustaining migrant social movements. Combining sustained historical engagement with theoretical inquiries, she addresses how struggles for racial and gender equity, cross-border unity, and economic justice have defined the Mexican presence in the United States since 1910.

Schmidt Camacho covers a range of archives and sources, including migrant testimonials and songs, Amrico Parede’s last published novel, The Shadow, the film Salt of the Earth, the foundational manifestos of El Movimiento, Richard Rodriguez’s memoirs, narratives by Marisela Norte and Rosario Sanmiguel, and testimonios of Mexican women workers and human rights activists, as well as significant ethnographic research. Throughout, she demonstrates how Mexicans and Mexican Americans imagined their communal ties across the border, and used those bonds to contest their noncitizen status. Migrant Imaginaries places migrants at the center of the hemisphere’s most pressing concerns, contending that border crossers have long been vital to social change.


  • “This is a wonderfully written book that should be read comparatively with other migrant histories as a way to move still further in our imaginaries about what we dare to envision for transcending the unjust history we have inherited. Schmidt Camacho has made a valuable contribution in launching this call.”

    Journal of American Ethnic History

  • "Notably, Schmidt Camacho’s comprehensive interdisciplinary work lends insight into the current immigration crisis, one wrought from more than a century of failed national policies…Camacho offer[s] complementary strategies for rethinking the relationship between history (broadly defined) and cultural production.” 

    American Literary History

  • “A sophisticated, timely, and insightful book that Schmidt Camacho has situated in the middle of one of today’s most important historiographical debates. How are we to understand border crossers whose experiences are more connected to the diasporic consequences of economic transnationalism than to the immigration metanarratives of national incorporation? Schmidt Camacho’s answer lies in her expansion of social theory to place non-rights-bearing people at the center of the conversation rather than on the periphery of the nation-state and its citizenry.”

    Journal of American History

  • “A landmark book. . . . Highly recommended.”


  • “In this beautiful study, Schmidt Camacho demonstrates that Mexican migrant imaginaries affirm in songs, manifestos, poetry, novels, and testimonies visions of justice that exceed the limits of the nation-form and the logics of capital accumulation.”

    —Lisa Lowe, author of Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics

  • “Schmidt Camacho is quite simply one of the most exciting scholars working on Mexican immigration. She draws on history, literature, folklore, cultural studies, and ethnography to produce an unvarnished examination of Mexicano migrants from the standpoint of the people themselves. Tracing the discourses of migration beyond the nation-state and contemporary debate, she powerfully links Americo Paredes, Luisa Moreno, and the Salt of the Earth strikers within a matrix of a transnational imaginary.”

    —Vicki L. Ruiz, author of From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America