Thursday, March 08, 2007

"They Love Us Here": More on life in San Miguel

This article published in Dissent Magazine was written by Sheila Croucher, a professor of political science at Miami University in Ohio. Much like myself, she began a formal research project in SMA last year, and this article appears to be an initial report on her findings that was written for a general audience.

The article is informative and well written. Ms. Croucher begins discussing international migration in terms of "push-pull" factors, in other words, an economic model of international migration. The push-pull theory is often bantered about in the media and by those in the general public who do formally study immigration. It's a very old theory of immigration, and it is by far the most simplistic. Most contemporary immigration scholars look at a combination of theories because it is obvious that it is more than money that drives a person to leave their homeland and live in a foreign country.

When Croucher does move on to social network theory, one of the more prominent theories in immigration studies today, she also characterizes social networks in Mexico as "pull" to bring Americans in--while the social networks make life and the transition to live in Mexico much easier, it is not necessarily the case that the networks are the pull that get people to sell everything and leave their families to live in this lovely mountain town (see the Fieldwork Diary link for more on this).

Croucher's article does provide a few new insights about the macrocstructure of life in SMA, but this article emphasizes the big picture. There are few voices of the expats reported here, almost no detail of the day-to-day experiences of expats or Mexicans. In short, it is a good overview, but not much in terms of the flavor of live in SMA.

As an alternative, I would suggest that you check out a new documentary film, Lost and Found in Mexico, which was directed and produced by American expat Caren Cross. I am going to a full blog on the film as soon as a trailer is ready, but for now you can find more information at this link. The film is an autobiographical account of Ms. Cross's first journey to SMA, which characteristically compelled her to return to her home in the U.S., sell off everything and return to Mexico to live full-time. The film uses oral histories from a variety of folks who live in SMA to answer the question, "why?" Why do Americans feel drawn to come San Miguel, what is it that they find there that is not available in the U.S.?

Lost and Found in Mexico is an abitious first film, and it shows a lot about life there that simply cannot be communicated on the written page.

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