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Becoming Transnational Youth Workers contests mainstream notions of adolescence with its study of a previously under-documented cross-section of Mexican immigrant youth. Preceding the latest wave of Central American children and teenagers now fleeing violence in their homelands, Isabel Martinez examines a group of unaccompanied Mexican teenage minors who emigrated to New York City in the early 2000s. As one of the consequences of intractable poverty in their homeland, these emigrant youth exhibit levels of agency and competence not usually assigned to children and teenage minors, and disrupt mainstream notions of what practices are appropriate at their ages. Leaving school and family in Mexico and financially supporting not only themselves through their work in New York City, but also their families back home, these youths are independent teenage migrants who, upon migration, wish to assume or resume autonomy and agency rather than dependence. This book also explores community and family understandings about survival and social mobility in an era of extreme global economic inequality.
About the Author
ISABEL MARTINEZ is an assistant professor of Latin American and Latina/o studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, New York.
"An absorbing, luminous and nuanced story of independent teenage migrants—“minors” by U.S. age norms—who journey from Mexico to New York City on their own, leaving parents and siblings behind to help support them financially, outside the purview of the legal system. How they manage these intrepid journeys, and the predicaments that inevitably accompany them, is the subject of this remarkable book. Theoretically sophisticated and deeply observed across years of field work in communities of origin and destination, this is an original and exceptional contribution to the scholarly literature on migration, mobility, and a changing transnational life course."
— Rubén G. Rumbaut
"Isabel Martinez helps us see. In the famous book Invisible Man Ellison brings us into the world of the unseen worker, the African American living amongst us but not integrated or accepted. Isabel Martinez’ skillful combining of sociology, anthropology, and dissection of legal process helps make visible the lives of migrant teenagers. She reveals through the voices of these youth stories of their daily lives, the factors that motivated them to make lonely dangerous journeys to the United States. She makes palpable the obstacles to integration experienced by Mexican migrant youth. This book will aid anyone seeking to serve immigrant communities whether as an educator, advocate, policy analyst, or fellow resident of the United States."
— Lenni Benson