This article addresses the question of how transnational Mexican mothers negotiate and participate in the educational trajectories of children in the United States and in Mexico. It illustrates how mothers in New York City are central decision-makers in school-related issues in Mexico and in the United States, even when there is lengthy separation from the children in Mexico, language and legal status barriers with children in the United States. This article argues that mothers in New York and grandmothers in Mexico go through similar challenges when interacting with teachers and school staff in both countries, as they feel like they have little power or influence to assist children. Theoretically, this article is rooted in an anthropological tradition of transnational migration and advances a discussion of the role of gender in migration and education. This article shows a “split-screen” format, comparing the experiences observed on both sides of the border regarding school interactions. Data from phone calls and text messages, across border are used to show the reach of mothers in New York goes beyond formal boundaries. Thus, this article shows how Internet and Communication Technologies (ICT) foster regular interactions between mothers and grandmothers, between mothers in New York City and teachers in Mexico, and between separated siblings when they are doing homework and/or playing.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
“Listen,” she told me later when I was in Mexico, “I love my girls and my daughter, but I am tired. Brianna has to come back. I have to enroll the girls in different classes, I have to go talk to the government for oportunidades (cash transfer program), I have to buy them clothes, take them to the doctor, and the worst part: deal with school and the people at the school!” Leila did not enforce school attendance; she found it difficult to coordinate the different times each granddaughter had to be in school and to make breakfast for the girls before they left for school. She said many times, “I am tired.”
In the previous year the police had made four arrests in their previous building, all regarding selling and dealing illegal drugs. In addition, the structure of the building had been causing leaks and ruptures on the walls. There were many rats and cockroaches getting into the walls and the city considered the building a safety hazard.
See Varenne and McDermott (1998) for a discussion of how American schools are successful at failing students and case studies of students’ interactions in educational settings.
Abrego, L. (2009). Economic well-being in Salvadoran transnational families: How gender affects remittance practices. Journal of Marriage & Family, 71(4), 1070–1085.
Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at Large Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Barth, F. (1969). Ethnic groups and boundaries: The social organization. Brown Series in Anthropology. New York: Little, Brown Series.
Bartlett, L. (2007). Human capital or human connections? The cultural meanings of education in Brazil. Teachers College Record, 109(7), 1613–1636.
Baubock, R. (2010). Studying citizenship constellations. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 365(May), 847–859.
Bernhard, J., Landolt, P., & Goldring, L. (2005). Transnational, multi-local motherhood: Experiences of separation and reunification among Latin American Families in Canada. Early Childhood Education Publications and Research. CERIS Working Paper No. 40. Ryerson University.
Bhandari, R., Mullen, K., & Calderon, S. (2005). Immigrant mother’s involvement in their children’s education at home and at school in 1999–2000. MPR Inc., Draft Working Paper, December. Available at: www.mprinc.com.
Boehm, D. A. (2011). Here/not here: Contingent citizenship and transnational Mexican children. In C. Coe, R. Reynolds, D. A. Boehm, J. M. Hess, & H. Rae-Espinoza (Eds.), Everyday ruptures: Children, youth and migration in global perspective (pp. 161–173). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.
Cerrutti, M., & Massey, D. (2001). On the auspices of female migration from Mexico to the United States. Demography, 38(2), 187–200.
Dreby, J. (2010). Divided by borders: Mexican migrants and their children. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Dreby, J., & Schmalzbauer, L. (2013). The relational contexts of migration: Mexican women in new destination sites. Sociological Forum, 28, 1–26.
Ehrenreich, B., & Hochschild, A. (2002). Global women: Nannies, maids and sex workers in the new economy. New York: Metropolitan Books.
Emerson, R., Fretz, R., & Shaw, L. (1995). Writing ethnographic fieldnotes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Fernandez-Kelly, M. P. (2008). Gender and economic change in the United States and Mexico, 1900–2000. American Behavioral Scientist, 52(3), 377–404.
Fresnoza-Flot, A. (2013). Cultural capital acquisition through maternal migration: Educational experiences of Filipino left-behind children. In L. Bartlett & A. Ghaffar-Kucher (Eds.), Refugees, Immigrants, and Education in the Global South: Lives in Motion. New York: Routledge Research.
Gálvez, Alyshia. (2010). Guadalupe in New York: Devotion and struggle for citizenship rights. New York: New York University Press.
Glick-Schiller, N., Basch, L., & Szanton-Blanc, C. (1995). From immigrant to transmigrant: Theorizing transnational migration. Anthropological Quarterly, 68(1(January)), 48–63.
Haas, H. (2008). Migration and development: A theoretical perspective. International Migration Institute, working paper 9.
Hamann, E. T., & Zúñiga, V. (2011). Schooling and the everyday ruptures transnational children encounter in the United States and Mexico. In Cati Coe, Rachel R. Reynolds, Deborah A. Boehm, Julia Meredith Hess, and Heather Rae-Espinoza, Everyday Ruptures: Children, Youth, and Migration in Global Perspective. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.
Hamann, E. T., Zúñiga, V., & García, J. S. (2008). From Nuevo León to the USA and back again: Transnational Students in Mexico. Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies, 6(1), 60–84.
Hirsch, J. H. (2003). A courtship after marriage: Sexuality and love in mexican trans-national families. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Hondagneu-Sotelo, P. (Ed.). (2003). Gender and U.S. immigration: Contemporary trends. University of California Press.
Hondagneu-Sotelo, P., & Avila, E. (1997). I’m not here but I’m there: The meanings of Latina transnational motherhood. Gender and Society, 11, 548–560.
Kearney, M. (1986). From the invisible hand to visible feet: Anthropological studies of migration and development. Annual Review of Anthropology 15: 331–361. Reprinted in Theories of Migration, ed. Robin Cohen. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
LeVine, R. A., LeVine, S. E., Schnell-Anzola, B., Rowe, M. L., & Dexter, E. (2012). Literacy and mothering: How women’s schooling changes the lives of the world’s children. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Levitt, P., & Glick-Schiller, N. (2004). Conceptualizing simultaneity: A transnational social field perspective on society. International Migration Review, 38(3(September)), 1002–1039.
Lewis, O. (1959). Five Families: Mexican case studies in the culture of poverty. New York: Basic Books.
Madianou, M. (2012). Migration and the accentuated ambivalence of motherhood: The role of ICTs in Filipino transnational families. Global Networks, 12(3), 277–295.
Marcus, G. E. (1995). Ethnography in/of the world system: The emergence of multi-sited ethnography. Annual Review of Anthropology, 24, 95–117.
Parreñas, R. S. (2005a). Children of global migration: Transnational families and gendered woes. Manila: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
Parreñas, R. S. (2005b). The gender paradox in the transnational families of Filipino migrant women. Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, 4(3), 243–268.
Paz, O. (1985). The labyrinth of solitude and other writings. New York: Grove Press.
Prins, E. (2011). On becoming an educated person: Salvadoran adult learners’ cultural model of educación/education. Teachers College Record, 113(7), 1477–1505.
Sawyer, A. (2010). In Mexico, Mother’s Education and Remittances Matter in School Outcomes. Migration Information Source, Migration Policy Institute (MPI). March 29. Available at: www.migrationpolicy.org.
Valdéz, G. (1996). Con Respeto: Bridging the distances between culturally diverse families and schools: An ethnographic portrait. New York: Teachers College Press.
Vertovec, S. (2007). New directions in the anthropology of migration and multiculturalism. Special issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30, 961–978.
Wallerstein, I. (1980). The modern world-system II: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World Economy, 1600–1750. New York: Academic Press.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Oliveira, G. Transnational Mothers and School Related Decisions. Urban Rev (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-019-00542-1