Fathering within and beyond the Failures of the State with Imagination, Work and Love

The Case of the Mexican Father


When Emilio López made his way to Atlanta, Georgia from México’s third most populated city, where he had grown up, worked, married and had two daughters, he was in pain. He had hurt his back in a work-related accident and was still recovering. “Es algo que no se lo deseo a nadie” [It’s something I don’t wish upon anyone], he began. Eventually he would come to talk about another kind of pain that previously had been too raw to share, one provoked by having to leave his school-aged daughters, wife, and country in search of a job ‘para ver por mi familia’ [to look after my family]. Emilio, and others in this study, father at a distance from their children once they cross the México-U.S. border. They tell a story about globalization and neoliberalism that reveals the dystopias families traverse when parents cross borders as a way to ‘look after their family.’ The narratives challenge policies, laws and economic arrangements that separate families. The fathers also remind us that while Mexican immigrants support the Mexican economy to the tune of 24 billion dollars a year through remittances, and help fuel the U.S. economy through their underpaid labor, the fathers see themselves as much more than workers and providers. Their identities are informed by an expansive definition of fathering. Although the fathers’ sense of disillusionment grows as they experience only modest gains for their families and live in precarious circumstances themselves, they nonetheless create radical and bold models of affection, care, love and fathering that help them overcome borders and the failures of the state to stay connected as a family.

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