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Culture Conflict Traps Women Who Shuttle Across the Border

November 24, 1985|Associated Press

BERKELEY — Mexican women who shuttle between their native land and the United States lead "double lives" because of the different role expectations in the two countries, a new study says.

The study by University of California, Berkeley, researchers examined the lives of 80 women who migrate annually from Mexico to the United States to work or to accompany husbands doing seasonal work north of the border.

The researchers said the women, especially those who work in the United States, find that behavior they adopted in the north clashes with traditional roles they encounter back home.

One of the researchers, Sylvia Guendelman, predicted an increasing number of Mexican women will face such conflicts as more migrate seasonally to the United States.

The study was conducted by Guendelman, adjunct assistant professor at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health, and doctoral student Auristela Perez-Itriago. Both are affiliated with the school's Latino Health Studies Center.

Guendelman presented some of the findings recently to a national meeting of the American Public Health Assn. in Washington.

The migrant women were interviewed for the study in Mexico by medical students from the University of Guadalajara. On average, the women had made more than four trips northward, often crossing the border with the aid of professional smugglers known as "coyotes."

The researchers said 75% of the women were married and the largest group was between 21 and 30 years of age. The study found that 10 times as many of them worked while in the United States than while in Mexico, a big factor in the "culture shock" they experienced.

Women who worked in the United States reported feeling more independent in the north and sharing more major decisions with their husbands. In Mexico, the study said, the situation was reversed and the women were relegated to domestic roles with little role in decision-making.

For women who didn't work while in the United States, different problems arose, with the women feeling isolated and more dependent on their husbands for domestic and social needs.

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