January 20, 2006

Women Migrants on the Move

(Editor’s Note: Part Two of a two-part series about a new report by Mexican researchers Blanca Villaseñor and Jose Moreno Mena. Today’s story reports on the migration of women)

For a long time, Mexican women took care of the home and even tended the farm while the men traveled across the border to labor in El Norte. Today the migration pattern is changing, as Mexican researchers Blanca Villaseñor and Jose Moreno Mena point out in their report “Women Migrants on the Northern Border.” Villaseñor and Mena utilized data from Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) about repatriated and deported women in Mexicali to report their findings. “Female migration has increased significantly in recent years,” conclude the two authors. “More and more adult women and minors are actively joining the migration process.”

Villaseñor and Moreno present INM statistics to support their case. In 1995, repatriated and deported women in Mexicali constituted just 4 percent of migrants; in 1996, 8 percent; in 1998, 11 percent; and in 2002, 14 percent. Seven out of 10 women migrants were between 18 and 32 years of age, though one exceptional case of an 85-year-old migrant was recorded. Significantly, the figures contrast with estimates from Mexico’s National Population Council (CONAPO) that 95 percent of temporary migrants are men.

Like men, most women migrants were from the traditional migrant-expelling states of Michoacan, Jalisco and Guanajuato, though southern-ers, principally from Oaxaca, Puebla and Guerrero, accounted for an increased share of the migrants. The findings provide additional evidence that migration, once a temporary activity regulated by the old Bracero Program and later marked by undocumented migration, has now become institutionalized in some regions of Mexico. What’s more, greater than 90 percent of the municipalities in the country “already have migration experience,” according to the report.

Although the Villaseñor-Moreno report did not look at internal migration, statistics reported by Mexico’s National Women’s Institute suggest a connection between earlier migration to the US-Mexico border region and then later to the US. According to a 2003 report from the federal institute, Tamaulipas and Baja California were among states witnessing an increase in the overall female population, while Mexico City, Veracruz, Guerrero, Durango, and Oaxaca saw a drop. It should be noted that migrants from southern states including Veracruz constituted a significant source of the population growth in cities like Ciudad Juarez in recent years.

In terms of educational background, Villaseñor and Moreno say that most of the women migrants studied had less education than the national average for women in Mexico. Only 7 percent, for example, finished high school, compared to the national average of 26.4 percent. A full 11 percent of migrants did not even have any schooling, compared to the national average of 8.5 percent.

One important consequence of Mexican female migration to the US is found in the changing ethnic composition of US society. According to CONAPO, an estimated 10 million Mexican-born people lived in the US in 2004. Another 17 million people were offspring of Mexican-born parents, bringing the total number of US residents with Mexican heritage to 27 million people.

Reprinted from Frontera NorteSur, Center for Latin American and Border Studies, New Mexico State University. Story by By Rodrigo Vera from Proceso, December 25, 2006.

Return to the Frontpage