Lilia Soto can remember her childhood experience of migrating to the United States in the 1980s and the anxiety associated with having to live and learn a new culture and being separated from family.
Soto, a University of Wyoming associate professor of American studies and Latina/o studies, was born in Napa, Calif., but raised in Zinapécuaro, Michoacán, Mexico, until the fourth grade. Her father, Matias Soto, had made repeated trips back and forth between Zinapécuaro and Napa before he settled in the United States permanently to work. Soto, along with her five sisters and their mother, Maria Elena Soto, remained in Mexico, where they anticipated moving north someday.
After living in a transnational family for 10 years, Soto, her mother and her sisters were reunited with Matias Soto. Soto has lived in the U.S. since 1986. She used those childhood experiences of migrating to the United States as the starting point of her book, titled “Girlhood in the Borderlands: Mexican Teens Caught in the Crossroads of Migration.” New York University Press published her 272-page book.
The book examines the experiences of Mexican teenage girls raised in transnational families and the ways they make meaning of their lives. Soto conducted a multisite research project in the United States and Mexico, focusing on young immigrant/migrant women to see if contemporary migrant families had the same aspirations, anxieties, expectations and experiences that she had.
“Fragmentation and transnationalism defined our family life,” she says. “It was fragmented by moves to the U.S. and back to Mexico, and then to the U.S. once again, and by visits, phone calls, letters and other efforts to share affection and intimacy with family members living in two different countries.”
The family did not simply move from its country of origin to a country of arrival, but “lived physically and psychically inside and […]