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Latina Activists Across Borders: Womens Grassroots Organizing in Mexico and Texasby Milagros Pena
Synopses & Reviews
Over the past twenty-five years, nongovernment organizations (NGOs) run by women and devoted to advancing women’s well-being have proliferated in Mexico and along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. In this sociological analysis of grassroots activism, Milagros Peña compares women’s NGOs in two regions—the state of Michoacán in central Mexico and the border region encompassing El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. In both Michoacán and the border region, women have organized to confront a variety of concerns, including domestic violence, the growing number of single women who are heads of households, and exploitive labor conditions. By comparing women’s activism in two distinct areas, Peña illuminates their different motivations, alliances, and organizational strategies in relation to local conditions and national and international activist networks.
Drawing on interviews with the leaders of more than two dozen women’s NGOs in Michoacán and El Paso/Ciudad Juárez, Peña examines the influence of the Roman Catholic Church and liberation theology on Latina activism, and she describes how activist affiliations increasingly cross ethnic, racial, and class lines. Women’s NGOs in Michoacán put an enormous amount of energy into preparations for the 1995 United Nations–sponsored World Conference on Women in Beijing, and they developed extensive activist networks as a result. As Peña demonstrates, activists in El Paso/Ciudad Juárez were less interested in the Beijing conference; they were intensely focused on issues related to immigration and to the murders and disappearances of scores of women in Ciudad Juárez. Ultimately, Peña’s study highlights the consciousness-raising work done by NGOs run by and for Mexican and Mexican American women: they encourage Latinas to connect their personal lives to the broader political, economic, social, and cultural issues affecting them.
Compares women's organizing efforts in Mexico and in the borderlands to assess the way Latina mobilization and activism is influenced by the socio-political context in which the groups of women find themselves.
About the Author
“Latina Activists across Borders is a significant contribution to research on gender and grassroots social movements. Milagros Peña’s analysis of the tensions between faith-based organizing, different types of feminisms, and class-centered ‘popular’ social movements challenges ahistorical paradigms of women’s grassroots activism. And her narratives of women self-consciously developing gendered senses of self are remarkable illustrations of the ways feminism and spiritual agency interact on both sides of the border.”—Denise A. Segura, coeditor of Women and Migration in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands: A Reader
“Through powerful narratives and context, Milagros Peña finds a common and collective voice for Mexican, Mexican American, and Latina women. This work is groundbreaking because it provides a new vista by which to understand and assess the local and the global women’s movements from a feminist perspective. Peña tells a story that has never been told and tells it very well.”—Alberto López Pulido, author of The Sacred World of the Penitentes
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