Theses Doctoral

Migrant Parents, Mexican-Americans, and Transnational Citizenship, 1920s to 1940s

Guzman, Romeo

The Mexican Revolution and WWI spurred the first large wave of Mexican migration to the United States. As a result, the 1920s and 1930s witnessed the largest cohort of children of Mexican migrants of the twentieth century. A significant percentage of these children were U.S. citizens by birth and were also granted Mexican citizenship through their parents, who generally did not seek to become U.S. citizens through naturalization. Using archival collections in Mexico and the United States, this dissertation examines the formal practices and strategies that these migrant families used to engage both U.S. and Mexican citizenship and navigate their place in both nations. It shows that the practice of citizenship was a multi-sited and transnational historical process as evidenced by an examination of two key areas in which it occurred. First, this dissertation uses education to show that Mexican parents and youth practiced Mexican citizenship from the United States. From 1924 to 1939, migrant parents and organizations, Mexican consuls, and the Secretary of Public Education established schools for migrant children in the United States. In addition, Mexicans in the United States pushed the Mexican government to create scholarships for U.S.-born youth at two Mexican universities in 1939 and 1945. Second, this dissertation provides new interpretations of repatriation by focusing on the relationship between repatriates and Mexican state, the role of the family during the Great Depression, and efforts by U.S.-born youth to claim and benefit from their status as U.S. citizens.

By following migrant families across the U.S.-Mexico border, this dissertation is able to compare the ways in which migrants and U.S.-born youth engaged both the U.S. and Mexican state. Indeed, they deployed a similar set of strategies and language. For example, in both Mexico and the United States, Mexicans visited the consuls. While the consuls did not always provide Mexicans with the resources they needed, they were often important intermediaries between migrants and the state and between migrants and family members in either Mexico and the United States. In addition to visiting consul, Mexicans wrote to government officials, especially the presidents of both the Mexican and U.S. nation. Their countless letters, I show, emphasized their citizenship status, their affinity to the nation, their “Americanness” or “Mexicanness,” and their commitment to contribute to the nation. Moreover, in their letters, Mexicans echoed the nation’s patriarchal values and metaphor of the family.

In constructing a transnational history of citizenship, this dissertation bridges and contributes to Chicano/a historiography, scholarship on Mexican nation building, and works on Mexican repatriation during the Great Depression. By including migrant families into the process of Mexican nation-building after the Mexican Revolution, I integrate a set of historical actors that have generally been excluded from Mexican historiography. Placing migrants and migrant children within this context contributes to Chicano/a historiography by demonstrating not only that Mexican citizenship mattered for these families, but that it was a negotiated process that included migrants and the Mexican state.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Guzman_columbia_0054D_13790.pdf Guzman_columbia_0054D_13790.pdf application/pdf 35.2 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Piccato, Pablo A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
March 6, 2017