Migrant Longing

Letter Writing across the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

By Miroslava Chávez-García

278 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 11 halftones, 2 maps

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4103-4
    Published: May 2018
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4102-7
    Published: May 2018
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-4104-1
    Published: March 2018

David J. Weber Series in the New Borderlands History

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Awards & distinctions

2019 Barbara "Penny" Kanner Award, Western Association of Women Historians

Drawing upon a personal collection of more than 300 letters exchanged between her parents and other family members across the U.S.-Mexico border, Miroslava Chávez-García recreates and gives meaning to the hope, fear, and longing migrants experienced in their everyday lives both "here" and "there" (aqui y alla). As private sources of communication hidden from public consumption and historical research, the letters provide a rare glimpse into the deeply emotional, personal, and social lives of ordinary Mexican men and women as recorded in their immediate, firsthand accounts. Chávez-García demonstrates not only how migrants struggled to maintain their sense of humanity in el norte but also how those remaining at home made sense of their changing identities in response to the loss of loved ones who sometimes left for weeks, months, or years at a time, or simply never returned.

With this richly detailed account, ranging from the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s to the emergence of Silicon Valley in the late 1960s, Chávez-García opens a new window onto the social, economic, political, and cultural developments of the day and recovers the human agency of much maligned migrants in our society today.

Published with support provided by the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas

About the Author

Miroslava Chavez-Garcia is professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
For more information about Miroslava Chávez-García, visit the Author Page.


Migrant Longing is clearly of deep intellectual value . . . Provides an unfortunately needed humanization of Mexican immigrants during a time period when countless millions of Americans view Mexican and Latin American immigrants as a scourge to be kept at bay. Ultimately, this is scholarship at its finest.”--Western Historical Quarterly

“Offers a uniquely intimate look into the lives and aspirations of early 1960s migrants and their families and friends in Mexico. . . . A pathbreaking book.”--Southern California Quarterly

“This study is important because . . . few histories on twentieth-century Mexico have examined migrants’ firsthand personal experiences in the United States.”--International Migration Review

“In mapping her family’s journeys across and between Mexico and California, Chávez-García argues that this rich archive of letters not only offers a window into the sweeping social, political, and economic changes wrought in Mexico in the mid-twentieth century, but also offers insight into the lives so deeply affected by those changes.”—Monica Perales, University of Houston

“By giving us this glance into the private lives of migrants and their families, Chávez-García teaches us a great deal about the linkage of intimacy and the search for work and family solidarity across borders.”—Donna Gabaccia, University of Toronto

“In this compelling narrative, Chávez-García deftly situates her family’s letters within the bigger picture of U.S.-Mexico border history. The way she is really able to ‘see’ her parents as historical actors and characterize them in honest and critical ways is beautifully done.”—Lori Flores, Stony Brook University