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versión On-line ISSN 2448-7228versión impresa ISSN 1870-3550


GARCIA, Martha. Symbolic Dimensions of Undocumented Immigration: Rites of Passage of Nahua Male and Female "Northerners" From Southern Mexico to the United States. Norteamérica [online]. 2008, vol.3, n.1, pp.121-151. ISSN 2448-7228.

To deal with their historic migration to the United States, the Nahua communities from Southern Mexico have recreated a symbolic universe by establishing new categories in their social system for the men and women participants in that process. This turns them into norteños and norteñas (male and female "Northerners"), and includes them in the community scale of values as collective examples of success and progress. Like in other societies, among the Nahua, changes in status, whether in the biological cycle or in the social cycle (turning into an international worker and going to "the North") during a lifetime are sanctioned by rituals. This makes it possible to recognize the unauthorized Mexico-U.S. border crossing as a rite of passage, through which the actors acquire new attributes and values. To identify the symbolic construction of this experience and its implications in social practice, the article analyzes the ritual in its three classic phases: separation, liminality, and aggregation. For the Nahua case, the development of this process consists of the "farewell," when the migrants externalize certain agreements with their protectors, family and community; the "voyage," marked by marginalization, invisibility, transgression, and sacrifices; and the "reception," in which the initiate is integrated once again into the new context of clandestine immigration.

Palabras llave : rite of passage; unauthorized immigration; Nahua communities; male and female "Northerners"; Mexico-U.S. border.

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