Transnational Immigration Politics in Mexico, 1850-1920
University of Arizona
The current historiography on Mexican immigration from 1850 through 1920, has neglected to seriously study the forgotten migration of American citizens, not big capitalists as those have been well documented, seeking their American Dream in Mexico. Thus, my work seeks to understand how a very unstable international border dominated by constant Indian raids and filibuster attempts, led to transnational migration. A direct consequence of transnationalism is that it created a xenophobia mentality among the masses, and in some instances, a fetishism for anything foreign, especially among elites and the new breed of young politicians under President Diaz. I focus my analysis on the wave of American citizens, mostly former Civil War veterans, who in the 1860s decided to go to Mexico because President Benito Juarez offered them generous incentives such as tax exemptions and large land grants for colonization purposes, if they decided to join his military efforts to rid his country of the French invaders. Beyond just those white American immigrants, the dissertation also looks at the experience that black colonists encountered in a country that proudly boasted that it welcomed anyone, regardless of their skin color, so long as they adhered to the law. So I argue, that after analyzing the experience of several ethnic groups, such as the Italian immigrants in Cordoba, Veracruz, or the colonies of those immigrants seeking religious freedom such as the Mormons and Mennonites in northern Mexico, that indeed, Mexico was the Land of God and Liberty. This was the popular term used by runaway slaves from Texas in the 1850s and by many African Americans from Alabama who sold everything they had in 1895 to pay for their transportation cost to Mexico in search of a better life not found in the United States.