The World of Mexican Migrants: The Rock and the Hard Place by Judith Hellman

Migration is the process that never stops and the challenges it causes are uncountable. Usually, people get information concerning migration issues from the governmental reports and separate interviews when something that can interest mass media happens. The detailed description of the routine and the adverse sides of the migration without any stereotypes is a rarity. Therefore, Judith Hellman’s book The World of Mexican Migrants: The Rock and Hard Place can be considered a description of the Mexican life in the border territories of Mexico, the process of crossing the frontier, and the life on the other side. The author made an attempt to depict the ways of the migrants’ survival, their inner feelings, and relations with their families. Moreover, Judith Hellman developed a contrast between life in Mexico and the immigrant’s life in the USA. This paper focuses on the depiction and analysis of the life of Mexican migrants and the problems they encounter in both Mexico and the United States.

Structure and Veracity

The book has a form of separate essays written by the narrator based on the interviews with the Mexicans and Americans who mostly have no relation to one another. The introduction and conclusion give additional historical and statistical facts that contribute to the comprehensive insight on the issue. Each chapter is dedicated to one concrete person with the typical story that represents the reality of the millions of migrants. To achieve the goal, the author involved such methods as interviewing, comparing (the arguments of the migrants, volunteers, and the government establishments), personal experience, and observation.

Judith Hellman concentrated her research on the use of human resources with the minimized involvement of the documented information about social programs. Therefore, the arguments given by the protagonists are convincing. Each story is based on personal experience and, moreover, some documents and the press publications were demonstrated to ensure that the person is not cheating. An important fact is that the researcher traveled to different places and saw by herself how everything looks like. Sometimes the author’s material is too narrow and detailed, boring and monotone, which is considered the weakness of the book. An average reader would never remember all the payments and roads, which partly spoils the narration and the attraction of the publicist style. The direct speech of the interviewed people is full with the Spanish dialects and jargons, which make the cognitive perception more authentic and valuable. The interviewing is critical: the narrator asks the questions that can disrobe lie, but the explanations are objective, which makes the things that have been discussed more trustful.

Thus, the book has a clear structure and the stories are completed in logical and directed order: Mexico (few cities), the border zone (including the Arizona desert) and the USA (wide geography). Sometimes it might seem as a guideline and a map with instructions on how to behave, what to take, where to go, and whom to trust. Hellman tries to be quite objective by involving the least number of the personal impressions so the recipients can make the necessary conclusions by themselves. The strength of the book is that it has appropriate stylistic peculiarities and there is the opportunity to use it in different spheres of life. They include education, economics, governmental and NGOs establishments, and the migration service bureau. The public which might have an interest in reading can be of various ages and social levels. However, the main question is whether the average American would look at the Mexicans from the unprejudiced side and without stereotypes. In fact, each story is a confession which applies to the people and explains why the Mexicans behave in this way. The book also displays their intentions to cross the border and how they see the world from the different side of the border.

Problematic Issues in the Book

The book is full of the important challenges and issues the people face every day. First, some historical reminiscent demonstrates traditional relationships and affairs between Mexico and the USA. Thus, the history is mentioned in the context of citizenship when the Reagan’s administration started the amnesty process in 1986–1988. During that time, the American government gave the citizenship and insurance to the illegal migrants who would like to legalize their residence in America. A great number of Mexicans refused to accept the citizenship because of the informational vacuum and fear of being caught and punished. Another mentioned historical fact is dated 1897 when a part of the Mexican land was passed to the USA and many Mexicans automatically got the U.S. citizenship. After that, the author mentions the Pancho Villa revolution (Julio’s story), the 1970s migration wave from Puebla, and the massacre in Acteal, Chiapas (1996), where unidentified people “took refuge in a church and the paramilitary types machine-gunned them” (Hellman 173). In fact, the official opinion about the migration from Mexico is proved by the reports which the Center for American Progress Immigration Team publishes annually. It is said that Mexican migration is “the most dynamic and the least counted” (Center of American progress n. p.). Furthermore, the government policy of the mentioned periods is familiar and proved. The only one difference is that the book shows it from the side of the victims, not passive observers. The last example is mentioned in the context of the racial and national conflicts that the author does not omit.

Overall, the book contributed to personal understanding of the problems noticed by the society in different amounts. The main problems are corruption, gender, racial, and ethnic discrimination, labor slavery, educational inequality, human rights violation, and the governmental policy. Also, corruption neglects all efforts that the government makes to reduce the illegal migration. However, the author shows it from the specter of desperate necessity in fake IDs as a resonant reaction to a violation of the labor rights. In addition, the author allows women to talk about the challenges they face while waiting for their husbands at home. This aspect is mostly neglected while providing the official reasons for migration, but it also one of the most delicate questions. In fact, Mexican attitude towards women shows that the gender inequality is not about religion, but the national character and traditions.

The human rights violation issue is integrated in the topics mentioned above and a few others dedicated to the personal safety guarantees, the legal protection, and humanitarian help mostly sponsored by the volunteers. In fact, the book is well written and it is valuable because of its idea to mention not only labor conflicts in the workplace between the Mexicans, but also interracial migrants’ stereotypes and unproved fault put on Mexicans (Raimundo’s stories). “You want someone who won’t take even a half-hour lunch break? Hire a Mexican” (Hellman 161). It is one more strong side of the book: the problems, break laws, and the reasons for making them are explained. In addition, the author touches upon the problem of the system organizing of the help for migrants (No More Death Group, Tepeyac, Project Hospitality, Department of Labor officer).

Conclusion

Judith Hellman wrote a documentary narrative book consisted of the essays that depicted the life of the Mexican migrants. The book is very detailed and convincing; the historical commentaries add some arguments of the Mexican lifestyle. The book is valuable due to the number of the problems it discusses, the omissions of the government policy, and the reasons immigration is an unstoppable process.