Mexican Politicization: Cultivating Optimism, Fostering Community

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Student Presentation

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Arthur Scarritt


Beyond issues of periodic mobilizations, in the face of economic, social and political marginalization, how do Mexican immigrants become politicized and sustain the capacity for mobilization? I argue that immigrant incorporation at work and society engenders isolationism and detachment, negating awareness of exploitation and desires to act collectively. My findings show the key to overcoming depoliticization and maintaining politicization is the acquisition of civic skills and development of community.

Integrated into the bottom of the split-labor market, immigrants are intimately aware of exploitation and discrimination. Still, the secondary sector of the split-labor market obscures the ways in which immigrants are divided and inculcates a fatality about political involvement as they have no means for addressing workplace issues. Beyond the workplace, immigrants get caught up in the welter of providing their own daily needs, strongly reinforced by the dominant culture’s pervasive liberal individual values, leading to further individualism and division. Ultimately, these processes gravely undermine the viability of action for the depoliticized Mexican immigrants interviewed.

In stark contrast, those who are able to act have, in a variety of dynamic ways, acquired civic skills, and thereby confidence, producing a capacity to act politically. Experiences ranging from involvement in a labor union, to an immigrant-run grassroots radio station, and even experience with the US legal system, generates politicization. Importantly, all of these forge some form of community, however minimal, beyond home and work. As cultural politics has shown, through building community in non-linear and unexpected manners, members are able to come together in cooperation for common purposes and consequently political mobilization becomes possible. With time, a reinforcing positive cycle of community and politicization is able to harness desires to participate and maintain politicization between opportunities.

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