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Investigaciones geográficas

versión On-line ISSN 2448-7279versión impresa ISSN 0188-4611


CASTILLO RAMIREZ, Guillermo  y  GONZALEZ SANCHEZ, Jorge. Chiapas and the Spatial Changes of Migration to the United States at the Turn of the Century. Invest. Geog [online]. 2018, n.95. ISSN 2448-7279.

In the framework of the evolution of migration from Mexico to the United States of America (USA) due to the structural economic reforms –free market, deregulation and the thinning of Federal staff, as well as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)–, and in the context of the new century (1990-2007), this article analyzes how the places of origin of Mexican migration flowing to the US changed through time and spread. These shifted from being concentrated in a group of states –located in the central west of the country– to became redistributed and expanded to the whole country, particularly involving an emerging group of southeastern states.

In particular, and according to this trend, this work carried out a detailed analysis of the evolution of migratory flows in Chiapas. Based on various Mexican government sources and documents issued by research centers in the U.S. –census data, reports, statistics and indices–, this article describes, through a dual analysis –at a country level and in a specific federative entity–, the new trend in the geography of migration in the early twenty first century, with special focus in Chiapas. We consider that these changes, for this specific period, are related to the growing importance of a series of political-economic restructuring processes coupled with a period of crisis in Mexico.

The specific period addressed in this work, 1994-2007, was defined based on two political-economic processes of national and international relevance that directly influenced the variations in migratory flows toward the U.S.: 1) this migration grew from 1994 as a result of the entry into force of the NAFTA; and 2) this phenomenon derived from the negative effects on the national production system, particularly in the agricultural sector, arising from the free-market policy. In contrast, from 2008 there was a reduced flow of Mexican migrants to the US due to the US economic crisis and its negative impact on the labor sector.

This work describes the shift in international migration from two approaches: 1) a spatial approach, focused on the expansion of the places of origin of Mexican migrants to comprise virtually the whole country; and 2) a socio-demographic perspective that contemplates the change in the profile of Mexicans migrating to the U.S. through the incorporation of various socio-cultural and economic groups to this international migratory flow. Also described are the changes in the duration of stays in the U.S. and the emergence of new crossing routes, coupled with the higher risk level and the increase in the number of deaths of undocumented migrants.

On the other hand, the state of Chiapas underwent one of the most significant changes with respect to international migration over a short period of time. At the end of the decade of 1990, this federative entity maintained a marginal participation in this process; however, at the beginning of the next decade it showed a marked increase in the flow of migrants from Chiapas to the U.S. This reconfiguration was reflected, among other variables, in the increase in the number of migrants from Chiapas who were deported by the U.S. immigration authorities and, most of all, by the substantial increase in the inflow of remittances.

Aspects that contribute to understand this remarkable transformation of migration in Chiapas include economic factors, such as the instability of international markets for agricultural products, the fall in the price of coffee, corn and bean, in addition to the intensification of the rural poverty that characterizes the entity. From the political point of view, it is related to the reduction of public spending in the countryside and the reduction of government supports and subsidies to agricultural production and marketing. In addition, the increased flow of migrants from Chiapas to the U.S. is associated with natural disasters that affected certain regions of the state, in particular the impact of hurricane Mitch in 1998 and hurricane Stan in 2005.

The comparison of the Mexico-United States migratory intensity between 2000 and 2010 made possible to determine the regions and municipalities that have increased their migratory relationship with the neighboring country. It is concluded that the changes in the geography of migration are associated with multiple socio-economic and political processes that impact at different scales -- local, regional and national levels. In the specific case of Chiapas, these changes had to do with the debacle of economic and productive processes in agricultural and rural contexts.

Palabras llave : International migration; Chiapas; geography of migration; economic processes.

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