The Relational Contexts of Migration: Mexican Women in New Destination Sites1

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Abstract

This article assesses Mexican immigrant women's experiences of isolation and autonomy in three new destination sites in Montana, Ohio, and New Jersey. We highlight six case studies from our cross-comparative data set of in-depth interviews and field work with 98 women to illustrate the intersections between contexts of reception and gender relations in shaping women's settlement experiences. We find that women in sites with a concentrated Mexican population and a well-developed social service infrastructure are relatively autonomous in accomplishing daily activities independent of their relationships with husbands or partners. In contrast, for women living in sites with few social support services, relationships with the men in their lives, what we call their “relational contexts,” matter for women's experiences of isolation or autonomy outside the home. Relational contexts have not been emphasized in previous literature on gender and migration but may be significant in shaping women's experiences across varying contexts of reception.

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