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TitleLives in Transit: Violence and Intimacy on the Migrant Journey
TagsUniversity Of California
File Size4.3 MB
Total Pages355
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
1. Circulations of Violence
2. The Arterial Border
3. The Migrant Industry
4. Embodied Mobilities
5. Intimate Crossings
6. (In)Security and Safety
7. Constellations of Care
Conclusion: The Unforgotten
Document Text Contents
Page 177

it relies on donations from individuals and private
organizations to assist in the payment of medical procedures,
prosthetic limbs, and the shelter’s daily maintenance.
Shelter workers also developed informal economic strategies

like the selling of used clothing. To this end, Irma and I spent
the afternoon sorting through garbage bags filled with donated
clothing. Irma instructed me to throw the clothes into two
piles, one to keep and one to discard. “What happens to the
clothes in the discard pile?” I asked. “You see that pit out in the
back? We burn them,” she replied. I was surprised by how
selective she was in the clothing to keep, throwing almost
everything into the discard pile. She kept only the newest
looking shirts and pants, nothing too worn or with too much
writing on it.
Irma knew something about clothing. She had worked for

years in a Sara Lee Intimate Apparel outsourced manufacturing
plant in Honduras, one of over forty countries where the Sara
Lee Corporation operates. Eventually, however, she found that
this was no longer safe or lucrative. Organized criminals had
begun to extort a weekly (tax) from workers, and the job
did not pay enough for her to care for her three children. She
therefore decided to migrate to the United States and seek
employment there as a domestic worker. Her older two
children were in school and stayed with her mother in
Honduras. For now it was just Irma and her youngest, the
delightful Emeline. The plan was to work for a few years and
make enough money to return home to them.
As I spoke with Irma I noticed a poster on the wall behind

her. It was hard to miss, though not particularly well-crafted or
designed. It is actually just a sheet of grid paper with nine

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photographs of different sizes taped onto it. Because this
shelter is located before most migrants meet La Bestia, the
photos serve as a prelude for what is to come. There is one of
hundreds of people aboard the train, the kind of thing you
might see in any newspaper. Then there are two photographs
of individuals on the train. One of the men wears a T-shirt over
his head to protect him from the dust and sun and grips the
side of the railcar. He looks directly into the camera and is
smiling. The image conveys a sense of adventure and
But the significance of these images lies in the contrast with

the other photographs on the poster, which are the ones that
really compel you to look. Four of the remaining photographs
are close-ups of migrant men lying in hospital beds. All of them
have lost at least one leg. In one photograph, the bandages
wrapping the stump of a severed limb are soaked in blood,
suggesting that the injury was very recent. The man is
connected to tubes all over his body and stares at the ceiling.
The center photograph is perhaps the most compelling. It
depicts a handsome young man, with his chest bare, lying on
his back. He has one arm thrown behind him, casually propping
up his head. The other hand is grasping what remains of his
grossly mutilated upper leg. Taken together, these photographs
juxtapose freedom of movement with confinement in bed, the
idealized masculine bodies often associated with the adventure
of migration and the debilitated, medicalized, tube-connected
bodies of the injured. The poster is part warning, part lesson,
and part tragedy, all wrapped into one.
News articles reference these migrant bodies as

(maimed), (dismembered), (crippled),

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racialized profiling, 73. See also checkpoints; La Arrocera
raids: on the train, 11, 68–69, 88, 91; in transit communities, 79
ransoms, 14, 97–98. See also kidnappings
“rape trees,” 168–69
ratero, 160
Reagan, Ronald, 36
refugees: during Central American wars, 58–59, 62; vs. economic migrants, 8, 49,
207; unaccompanied children as, 80

religion: bibles, 38, 76, 78; prayer, 92, 112, 198
and social movements, 9, 166
Rio Grande Valley, 208
Ríos Montt, José Efraín, 36, 39
Romero, Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo, 10
root causes of migration, 33

safe house, 88, 97, 118
Salvadoran civil war, 35, 37
San Pedro Sula, 30, 44, 50
sanctuary Movement, 10
SB1070, 82
Scalabrinians, 9, 205
Scheper-Hughes, Nancy, 4
sex work, 93, 137, 162
shelters See migrant shelters
Sierra Mixe, 71
smugglers, 13, 32, 73, 123, 136; accusations of being a, 73, 75, 150–51, 168;
complexities of being a, 100–102, 133–35, 154, 160; and guides, 134–36, 146–49;
inside shelters, 104, 144; paying “taxes,” 92

smuggling: 16, 25, 86, 154; costs of, 12, 29, 79; as form of safety, 98–102; as
intimate labor, 134, 137, 146–49, 153

solidarity, 9, 166, 188, 193–95, 199, 209
Sonoran Desert, 82, 208. See also U.S.-Mexico border
state securitization, 8, 43, 58–63, 66, 70, 79–80, 85, 160, 208
state sexual violence, 18, 63, 69
Stephen, Lynn, 62, 70, 203
structural vulnerability, 127, 130

Tamaulipas massacre, 3, 78, 83, 209–10
Tapachula, 51, 55, 64, 68, 75, 182
Tecún Umán, 52
Tenosique, 68, 80, 182

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transnational families, 152–53, 188
transnational circulations of care, 188–89, 195–96, 209
transnationalism, 6, 74

U.S. border patrol, 123, 168, 210
U.S.-Mexico border, 2, 7, 21, 212; apprehensions on, 59; crossing, 12, 99, 136;
disappearances and deaths along, 75, 192, 208–10; unaccompanied minors, 32,
58; violence, 70, 165

unaccompanied minors, 29–32, 50, 80

violence: continuum of, 4–5; post-structural, 5, 103; state, 35–36, 41–42, 47–48, 62–
63, 66, 179; structural, 5, 33, 127; “violent pluralism,” 42. See also gendered
violence; rape trees; state sexual violence; state securitization

visas: FM3, 72; humanitarian, 78, 89, 177

Walters, William, 7
Western Union, 101–2
Wilson, Ara, 16
women’s work/feminine carework, 188, 201–4

Zapatistas, 62, 64
Zelaya, Manuel, 48
Zetas, 14, 48, 72, 83, 86–88, 132, 186
Zilberg, Elana, 41, 43, 61

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