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  1. McGuire, Sharon Sr. OP, PhD, APRN, BC
  2. Georges, Jane RN, PhD


The growing exodus of indigenous people from Mexico into the United States, especially from the multiethnic state of Oaxaca, is used as an exemplar of the global phenomenon of transnational migration and its effects on health. Lately, indigenous Oaxacan women have become a predominant part of this diaspora in the United States. Driven by economic desperation most arrive across the border as undocumented persons that configure them into multiple liminal spaces inimical to health and well-being. This article provides a venue for some of their voices to be heard, some major concerns understood, and for proposing links between postcolonial Mexico, neoliberal globalization, and immigration border policy as driving forces that undergird these conditions. An emancipatory praxis of nursing to promote health and reduce suffering within transnational migrants is proposed as a starting place for future nursing scholarship.


BORDERS are many things. Land/water borders are a defining feature of nation-states, born of colonial enterprises, and are represented in maps. According to Huggan colonial map-making is a mimetic device that endorses a distinctly Western essentialist view of the world that "negates or suppresses alternative views which might endanger the privileged position of its Western perceiver." 1(p126) Huggan believes that Western cartographic practice has been employed as a way of inscribing an uninscribed earth in graphic narrative and symbol to maintain control. Borders as mapped, in this sense, are a visual analog of colonial discourses. They are boundaries that demarcate, differentiate, and separate.


Contemporary borders also juxtapose colonial pasts with postcolonial presents and anticolonial struggles for an imagined more hopeful future. They are geographic regions of contestation by the world's transnational migrants and their advocates, especially when those borders are designed to protect White wealth, power, and privilege from excluded others. As rich countries tighten their borders with dubious rationalizing discourses they increase their measures of surveillance, another characteristic of colonial practice. 2 Contestants might conceive of borders as obstacles and stumbling blocks, but they are also fluid and permeable, able to be changed, reconfigured, or disappeared, to be transgressed and crossed, leaped over, or slithered under. They can be regions of negotiated life and metaphoric of social constructions. In this sense borders are also liminal spaces, representing transitions and suspended "spaces between" past and future, home and wandering, for those who feel compelled, without "authorization," to cross over a geographic border for survival.


Such describes the 2000 mile long US-Mexico border, symbol of the diverse liminal spaces occupied by ethnic indigenous women immigrants from the southern multiethnic Mexican state of Oaxaca, once known in the Nauhuatl language as the "heavenly and esteemed land" (Nudzavuinuhu). 3(p35) Nestled between Chiapas to the southeast and Guerrero to the northwest, the 3 states are known as the Mexican Poverty Corridor. 4,5 They lie in the heart of the ancient Meso-America, once populated by 25,000,000 indigenous people in the pre-Hispanic/European colonial era. 6 The Corridor is home to the largest single concentration of Mexico's 12,000,000 indigenous peoples, descendents of the surviving remnants of the brutalities of colonization. The Spaniards, thinking they had arrived in India, called them Indians, an enduring designation charged with multiple meanings. 7-10 Today, an estimated 1,000,000 ethnic indigenous Oaxacans and migrants from other regions of southern Mexico, having dared to transgress the northern border, form a diaspora in more than 23 of the United States. Significant communities of Mexican indigenes are dispersed throughout the Midwest, the South, the Northeast, and the Northwest, with the largest single majority in California. 4,9,11