Dibujando el “Otro Lado”: Mexican Children’s Perceptions of Migration to the United States

Pamela K. Sertzen & Rebecca M. Torres

Based on research in the Totonacapan region in Veracruz, Mexico, we examine left-behind children’s perceptions of migration to the United States (“el otro lado”) as manifest in their complex understandings of the journey, landscapes of urban life, social (space/ interactions), and material culture. We privilege young children’s perceptions about the migration experience through writing and drawing activities. While multiple factors shape children’s perceptions, the migration stories of adults and older youth are among the most present influences. By focusing on children aged eight and nine, we demonstrate the young age at which narratives about migration processes are already ingrained. The so-called “surge” of unaccompanied migrant children to the USA in 2014 highlights the need to pay attention to left-behind youths’ ideas about migration. We find that left-behind children’s narratives demonstrate astute perceptions of urban life and economic amenities in the USA, as well as of migrants’ risky journeys. These narratives also demonstrate clear tensions between what the children perceive as the life conditions that await migrants on the other side and the risky journey that they feel migrants must undertake.

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