A Review of Global Latin(o) Americanos: Transoceanic Diasporas and Regional Migrations

Latin American Mobilities

by | May 5, 2019

Global Latin(o) Americanos: Transoceanic Diasporas and Regional Migrations by Mark Overmyer-Velázquez and Enrique Sepúlveda Oxford University Press, 2018, 322 pages

Global Latin(o) Americanos: Transoceanic Diasporas and Regional Migrations engages ongoing debates about mobility and migration from a unique “Latin(o)” perspective which integrates new interdisciplinary work on inter-Latin American migration and broader diaspora studies in a field often focused on the migration of Latin Americans to the United States.

While the dominant flow of people in the Western Hemisphere has historically been the movement between Mexico and the United States, this book demonstrates that the regional and transnational migration of peoples within Latin America and elsewhere is much more diverse even if in raw terms the main flow is still of Mexicans to the United States. We know a lot less about regional migration within and between Latin American nations than we should. We know, and I say this as a historian, much less about how, say for example, Mexicans migrate from rural areas to Mexican cities, and within Mexico prior to migration to the United States or how regional Latin American migration flows operate within nations. The same can be said about migrations between Latin American countries as well as within and from the Caribbean. Authors Overmyer-Velázquez and Sepúlveda provide a series of case studies about these migrations that give greater detail to these internal and transhemispheric flows of Latin American people.

This two-part study offers a collection of country-specific case studies from a number of disciplinary perspectives tracking the flows between Latin American countries in the Western Hemisphere and global migration flows of Latin Americans to places as far removed as Israel and Japan. Readers are guided through a variety of chapters that while varied in quality and decipherability portray the complex mobility of Latin American peoples regionally, hemispherically and globally. We are shown how long-term circuits of migration flows existed between Peru and Chile as well as Bolivia and Argentina and the varying degrees to which migrants were allowed space for participation in civic life or were restricted to an outsider status.

The same is also true for the long-term migration circuits that linked Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, as well as Mexico and Guatemala as well as the degree to which Latin American countries sought to restrict immigration and migration and regulate the status of migrants within their territorial boundaries. We see these nations seeking to maintain national borders and limit the integration of migrants in important ways that are quite similar to the immigration regimes of Western Europe and the United States. The state, in this context, is rather similar in the way that legal structures evolved in the 20th century to establish boundaries between the emerging and solidifying borders between nation states.

In its second section, the authors consider the mobility of Latin Americans outside of the Western Hemisphere to places like Spain as well as nations not often thought of when considering the movement of Latin American peoples. This diverse collection of country- specific articles provides readers with examples of how the flow of Latin American people operates within global circuits of migration. Bringing this Latin American global diaspora into greater focus is a key contribution of this volume. Here we also see the comparative regulation of immigration within the Latin American context. For those who have limited understanding of border regulation, this volume, sometimes unintentionally, places the immigration system of Latin America and other nations in a comparative space where the reader can see that all nations regulate their borders, define the boundaries of citizenship, and maintain a sense of culture or seek to do so in Japan, Israel, and Canada.

Even in the Canadian case, which has a powerful language minority in Quebec that has preserved a French linguistic and cultural focus we see the limits of Multiculturalism. This volume, while not focused on the United States is written, apparently, for a readership versed in U.S. Latinx history. When reading this volume, I was struck not so much by how much U.S. immigration law is an outlier but rather shares many of the contours of immigration law across the Western hemisphere and the world and has, at times, been far more welcoming of immigrants than many other places. The endeavor of considering immigration law within global comparative context seems a worthy project, especially after reading a volume that provides so much country- specific and comparative information on immigration regulation within a variety of hemispheric and global contexts.

In some ways, the study’s impact is confused by the title and the efforts of the editors to expand the meaning of Latino beyond the confines of U.S. Latinx studies. While it is interesting to consider the idea of a pan Latino identity outside the United States, Princeton sociologist Douglas Massey in his introduction subtly questions the very notion of a pan-Latino identity outside the boundaries of the United States. Pan-Latinx or “Latin” identities were evident in the United States in the 1960s among Puerto Rican and Mexican American led social movements for civil rights as those movements often attracted Latin American college students and workers to the cause and in some cities like Chicago, New York and Milwaukee there was an embrace of a Pan-Latin (and later Latinx) political identity as Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans struggled for rights as citizens and later as migrants.

However, the idea that Latinx is an identity that can be broken free of its roots within social movements that sought to remedy multi-generational discrimination for those Latinos living in the United States requires leaps of faith and inquiry Massey, does not make. The press should be scolded for failing to properly complete copy editing of this volume which in several chapters had editors and author comments included in the main body of paragraphs.  So, setting aside the idea of a global Latinx identity, set free from its historical context and the struggles of U.S. Latinx minority people, what remains is an important collection that provides the reader with useful country studies that deepen our understanding of the history of migration, or mobility of Latin American peoples within the hemisphere and globally. This is an important contribution.

Marc S. Rodriguez is Editor of the Pacific Historical Review, and Professor of History at Portland State University. His most recent book, Rethinking the Chicano Movement, is a synthetic study of the Chicano civil rights movement.

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