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Vol. 1 Núm. 3 (2002): julio-diciembre, 2002

Mexicanization: A Survival Strategy for Guatemalan Mayans in the San Francisco Bay Area



This article explores “Mexicanization,” a survival strategy for Guatemalan Mayans during the migratory and settlement process in the United States. This term describes the Guatemalan Mayans’ ambiguous relations with Mexico and Mexicans. The symbolic role of Mexico is present throughout the Guatemalan migration process, from the preparatory phase in Guatemala or in the Mexican refugee camps, through the perilous journey north, during which Guatemalans attempt to blend into Mexican society to avoid deportation or extortion by Mexican authorities. On entering the United States, this pattern continues as Guatemalans claim Mexican identity so that if detained, INS officials will send them only to the Mexican side of the border. As Guatemalans settle in the United States, they often live in communities dominated by Mexican businesses, products, food, culture, and social networks. The experience of Mexicanization varies according to gender and background.RESUMENEn este artículo se analiza la “mexicanización”, una estrategia de sobrevivencia adoptada por mayas guatemaltecos durante el proceso migratorio y de establecimiento en Estados Unidos. El término describe las relaciones ambiguas de tales migrantes con los mexicanos. El papel simbólico de México está presente desde la fase preparatoria del proceso migratorio, en Guatemala o en los campamentos de refugiados en México, hasta el peligroso viaje hacia el norte, durante el cual los guatemaltecos intentan mezclarse con la sociedad mexicana para evitar ser deportados o extorsionados por las autoridades. Al entrar a Estados Unidos los guatemaltecos siguen utilizando la identidad mexicana, para asegurar así, si son detenidos, que los oficiales del INS los envíen solamente a la zona fronteriza del norte de México. Cuando los guatemaltecos se establecen en Estados Unidos, con frecuencia viven en comunidades dominadas por negocios, productos, alimentos, cultura y redes sociales mexicanas. La experiencia de la “mexicanización” varía según el género y la historia personal.

Imagen de portada

Palabras clave

  • international migration
  • Guatemalans
  • identity
  • Latinos
  • San Francisco Bay Area

Cómo citar

Castañeda, X., Manz, B., & Davenport, A. (2017). Mexicanization: A Survival Strategy for Guatemalan Mayans in the San Francisco Bay Area. Migraciones Internacionales, 1(3), 103–123.


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