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This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. Sort order. Oct 10, Megan rated it it was amazing. I read this book in my Latino Immigration class. This book is repetitive, but well written. As a sociologist i am supposed to look at every issue from every angle. And with this book, i was surprised that i forgot to look at migration and immigration laws from a religious stand point.

I think if you read this book, you might see migrants in a different light. Jun 28, Robert rated it it was amazing. Persons traveling without papers reported praying for their personal safety and security during the long and dangerous journey. I prayed to the Virgin Mary to protect me and my daughter on the trip and to let us arrive safely to the home of my husband. Both documented and undocumented migrants come from the same culture, one imbued with deep religious beliefs.

The difference lies in what they pray for. Documented migrants Decision Making and Leave-Taking 35 avoid the hazardous journey, and so their trip to the United States is an easy one, sometimes made by air. They told me they prayed for a new and better life in the United States. In well-established sending areas throughout Mexico and Central America, prospective migrants and their families, sometimes with the aid and blessing of trusted local clergy, perform a variety of cultural and religious rituals prior to departure.

Almost half 42 percent the entire sample—Catholics and Protestants, legal and undocumented—performed one or more religious rituals before leaving their hometowns, ranging from home-centered devotional practices to receiving blessings from local clergy to visiting sacred shrines. The most widespread religious practice that departing migrants and their families undertook was additional migration counseling.

Not surprisingly, practicing members of particular churches were especially likely to reach out to their priests and pastors with whom they had an established history of prayer and counsel. During these private consultations and public prayer services, migrants continued to present and discuss their hopes and fears, but most of all they sought final blessings from their spiritual leaders, blessings that provided comfort both to the migrants and to the families who would be left behind.

Often these blessings were sought in conjunction with a series of home-devotional practices prepared by mothers, sisters, and brothers of departing migrants. The types of practices reported varied by community, reflecting different regional and ethnic cultural practices, as well as the importance of regional and national patron saints, as the following migrant narratives illustrate: Cecilia was nineteen years old the first time she traveled to the United States from her hometown of Puebla, Mexico. Prior to departing on what she suspected would be a life-threatening journey, Cecilia, Margot, and their mother went to their priest to ask his blessing.

Before visiting the priest, however, the three women performed a series of rituals in her home, which Cecilia explained are common Mexican practices developed by mothers and sisters and observed by departing migrants and their families. The priest anointed the two sisters with holy water while performing his blessing, gave them a holy card of the Virgin of Guadalupe to accompany them, and wished them good fortune and safety on their trip. She lit a white candle for each of her daughters to provide light in the dark and placed the candles, along with the flowers, next to a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe on a homemade altar in the front room of their home.

Recalling the crossing brought Cecilia to tears. A similar domestic ritual was performed by the parents of Marissa, a young Catholic woman from a rural community in Oaxaca, who traveled without authorization to California in Marissa said that other migrants from Mexico, from areas as distant as her hometown in central Mexico to Monterrey in northern Mexico, routinely undergo these popular devotional practices when preparing to leave their homes for the United States. Several departing migrants in Guanajuato, for example, reported being given a special soap by their local priest and told to scrub the body well before embarking on their journey.

The soap, they explained, was to protect them from harm during the journey. In the highlands of Guatemala, Amelia and her family made several devotional preparations before she left home. It is our custom to be alone, to pray in the silence of our homes. It illuminated the way for me in the dark journey north. Lighting candles adorned with the image of local saints is a common ritual practiced by Catholic families to commemorate the departure of family members.

It is also a ritual practiced by Catholics in unfortunate situations throughout the world. In his analysis of Catholic American devotional practices of the Shrine of St. The departure ritual also enables the family to remain spiritually connected to the migrant throughout the journey, thereby overcoming the barriers of time and space. Clergy in Mexico and Central America repeatedly commented to me on the frequency and importance of blessings and other last-minute religious preparations for departing migrants.

Sister Maria Gemma, a Brazilian woman of the Scalabrini congregation who runs Centro Madre Assunta shelter for displaced women in Tijuana, Mexico, described how departing migrants often visit her requesting a blessing before crossing the border. Although she feels awkward about granting their requests because she is not an ordained priest, she complies. Their faith is too strong to resist. They truly believe that God will help them endure the migration. Without God they have nothing. On one occasion, a group of prospective migrants whom he had counseled in the past approached him for a blessing and several rosaries.

He complied with their requests. Several weeks later, they called him from Ojinaga, Chihuahua, a Mexican border city that is situated on the Rio Grande, on the other side of the U. The group explained that they had been apprehended by U. Border Patrol officials and sent back to Mexico. They now wanted to come to see the priest, rest a few days, and receive another blessing before attempting the trip again.

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If we had not had your blessing, who knows how far we might have gone? Probably not even to the border. One young Mexican priest from Tijuana, who juggled the responsibilities of his parish while also directing a migrant shelter, had grown weary of the requests. When I asked what happened, they replied that they were caught because they were refused a special blessing.

They come with the humble requests of the poor: a cure for a chronic ailment, a job for an out-of-work spouse. They come to give thanks for a prosperous year. And they come in search of final blessings, confessionals, and prayer services before leaving for the United States. Place is central to many devotional practices and shrines in Latin America.

These sites, often homes to popular folk images that have suffered at the hands of the larger society, draw tens of thousands of pilgrims, including migrants, each year. The most famous of these folk icons is Juan Soldado Juan Castillo Morales , whose colorful image sits in a run-down but heavily visited shrine in a public cemetery in the border city of Tijuana, Mexico. The Catholic Church also controls the bulk of the shrines in Central America, but in contrast to Mexico, where shrines mainly feature Christ and the Virgin, the Central American shrines include numerous images of saints who have attracted popular devotion in the region.

The most popular of the religious images of Christ, El Cristo Negro, reclines on a marble altar in the Basilica of Esquipulas in eastern Guatemala. Evangelical communities in the highlands of Guatemala, where religious practices are a combination of evangelical beliefs and indigenous practices, organize pilgrimage sites in well-known sacred places. Soothsayers, who act as mediators between people and God, control and care for these sacred sites. Other Central American countries have their key pilgrimage settings, all of which house images of the Virgin Mary.

Each Latin American country has its own image of the Virgin Mary that it venerates as its national patron saint, but Mexico shelters the most revered of all virgins in the region. Multiple images of La Virgen de Guadalupe, whose appeal extends across the Americas, sits in the massive complex of the basilica of the same name on the hill of Tepeyac, just outside Mexico City. This is the largest pilgrimage site in Mexico, and includes an old basilica, which is crumbling through age and neglect; a much larger new basilica, which was erected in ; a museum; and several outdoor shrines, including the famed site on which the Virgin was believed to have appeared in to Juan Diego, a poor Aztec farmer.

Within the huge new basilica, twenty chapels form the balcony surrounding the massive main altar. Every year, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims descend on one of several shrines located in the complex.

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Supplicants venerating the glass-encased statue of La Virgen, which is located in an outdoor shrine, follow a series of rituals that are observed in many Catholic shrines throughout the region and the world. As is custom, along the way pilgrims leave petitions for favors or notes of thanks in a metal box, labeled Deposite sus milagros Deposit your miracles. Among the many pilgrims who throng the basilica are departing or journeying migrants. Some come to be blessed by the priest who holds court in a small glass room just outside the church store and the depository for flowers, fruit, and other gifts left by pilgrims in gratitude for favors received.

The priest, who blesses hundreds of pilgrims a day, explained to me that many of Decision Making and Leave-Taking 41 the pilgrims who come to him request general blessings and do not mention a specific intention.

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In the months of May and June, however, he often hears requests for final blessings from young men and women who are preparing for the journey to the United States. The basilica has traditionally opened its doors to migrants and celebrated the migration experience, he explained. The celebration primarily honors Mexicans abroad, but draws migrants from all over Latin America. The store is stocked with many religious items commemorating the Queen of Mexico, ranging from prayer books to medallions to T-shirts. The devotional, modeled on the s Manual for Braceros, was first published by the diocese of Zamora in Since then other dioceses in Mexico and Guatemala have published variations of the prayer book with Scalabrinian assistance.

Since many established sending communities in Mexico are located in these states, it is not surprising to learn that among the pilgrims at these shrines are many departing migrants who have come to seek blessings and spiritual comfort before embarking on the dangerous trip north. One of the most popular shrines in the region today is the Shrine of St. Toribio, located in what was once the desolate farming village of Santa Ana de Guadalupe in Jalisco, Mexico.

The five-minute journey down the causeway is dramatized by the sound of symphonic music blaring from enormous speakers. The local diocese has invested heavily in devotional promotion; in addition to the causeway, the compound includes several churches, a retreat center, a room of miracles, and 42 Migration Miracle a thriving retail store crammed with religious artifacts of St. Toribio, the construction of which largely comes from tithes and profits from the retail store. Toribio to request favors or give thanks to the legendary priest St. Toribio Romo, one of twenty-four martyrs of the — Cristero Wars between the Mexican revolutionary government and the Catholic Church.

In the early twentieth century, Father Toribio and the Catholic Church in Mexico were outspoken critics of emigration to the United States. Saint Toribio was virtually unheard of as recently as His current fame rests on his canonization by Pope John Paul II in and on a series of miracles that many claim he has performed, the most legendary of which was granted to a group of journeying migrants.

Toribio is Josefina, a lifelong resident of the local community. For years she has worked at the chapel recording the miracles and collecting, organizing, and caring for all the petitions and offerings that pilgrims leave at the shrine. Josefina recounted to me the miracle of St. Toribio, a narrative that most of his believers can recite by heart. Lost in the Mexican desert just south of the Mexico-California border, they fell prey to the harsh elements. One of the young men, feeling he could endure no more, urged the other two to go on without him, but his companions refused to leave him behind to die alone in the desert.

With nowhere else to turn, they dropped to their knees and prayed for their lives to the Virgin of Guadalupe. After some time, a man shrouded in a long, black cloak approached the young men. The young migrants responded that they were dying from thirst. Then the stranger asked the migrants where they were headed.

The stranger told the three journeying men that he would take them to the City of Angels. Under his care the migrants traveled unnoticed across the border to a U. While walking on the side of the highway, a U. Border Patrol car sped by. The men were invisible to the U. The stranger took the men to a bus station and waited until the three migrants were safely on board, bound for Los Angeles.

Thinking that the mysterious man in black was a Decision Making and Leave-Taking 43 coyote, the trio offered to pay him for his services. I will always be there. The young men never forgot the kindness of the stranger, and so when they returned to Mexico four years later, they traveled to Santa Ana de Guadalupe to express their gratitude. Toribio, where the surprised group saw the face of the mysterious man who had helped them in a photograph above the altar. Toribio has become the legendary companion of journeying migrants, many of whom claim that he helps them under the guise of a coyote.

By framing St. Toribio as a coyote saint, the Catholic Church in Mexico provides a compelling spiritual and moral narrative for undocumented migrants. Each year migrants in the thousands flock to his shrine and ask the saint to accompany them on their travels to the United States. He experienced all that migrants do. He can understand the pain of family separation, of not being respected by the state. On a Sunday in early January , several hundred people squeezed into the chapel of St. Toribio to attend the A. Others attended the A.

Several times during the mass, the priest invoked the name of St. A weekly ritual followed the mass: Attendees lined up to speak with the priest or request a blessing from him. Some pleaded with him to listen to the miracles St. Toribio had performed for them or their family members. Josefina, the keeper of the miracles, recorded their accounts.

In conversations with thirteen people approached at the shrine, nine of the men said they were there for migration-related concerns. Twelve of the thirteen were practicing Catholics and all shared a history of migration to the United States. Some had returned to their home communities over the Christmas holidays to visit family and planned to return shortly to the United States. Most would be venturing north without documentation. About half the men had visited the shrine of St. Toribio before. They had learned of the saint and his miraculous powers on behalf of migrants through a variety of sources, including friends and family who had visited the shrine or experienced a miracle, and from television icons.

Some of the migrants had visited other shrines in the country such as the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City, but had come to St. Toribio as a coyote saint. The young men requested that St. Toribio accompany them on a future journey to ensure themselves a safe passage. One elderly man who visited the shrine commented on the importance of St. So we pray for those who leave, neighbors pray for one another, to St.

Toribio, to God, and to La Virgen de Guadalupe. They go about every other year. I always pray for them, when they leave and once they are there. I am here today praying for their departure. Each year throngs of pilgrims from Guatemala and other Central American countries descend on the grand white basilica in the normally quiet and desolate town of Esquipulas to worship the original image of the Black Christ and hear testimony of the miracles it has bestowed on his worshippers. As they do at other Christian shrines, supplicants with petitions for favors crawl their way to the altar on their knees.

This painful journey can take several hours from the starting point at the shrine of Esquipulas, which is the central plaza in front of the church. Once at the altar, worshippers rub candle figurines of specific body parts along the glass, leave handwritten petitions requesting favors from the miraculous Christ, and place at the foot of the icon a variety of ex-voto offerings such as flowers, drawings, handwritten cards, and milagros small silver medallions in gratitude for a miracle they have received.

Situated more than a hundred miles from Guatemala City, in a mountain valley in the far Eastern corner of Guatemala, Esquipulas serves as a principal border town to Honduras and a crossing corridor to many central Americans. Its proximity to two loosely regulated international borders draws scores of migrants for religious counsel and material assistance. According to Father Rigoberto, one of several priests at the basilica, about forty to fifty migrants visit the shrine each day.

The overwhelming majority have no travel authorization. They come from as far away as Ecuador and Peru, but most travel to the shrine from Honduras and from other locations in Guatemala. Some stop at the basilica for material assistance such as a hot meal and a change of clothes. Most are Hondurans who have left their homes only a day or so before and have come to request a blessing as they set off on the two-thousandmile trek to the United States. At these blessings, which are often group blessings, we anoint them with holy water, pray together for their safety, and counsel them on the family they are leaving behind.

Sometimes, if time allows, they also share the Eucharist with us, but since many who stop here are not practicing Catholics, all they really want is a final blessing to protect them before they go on their way. A second popular Catholic shrine is housed in the old colonial city of Antigua, in the western highlands of Guatemala.

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On any given day, but especially on his feast day, April 25, scores of tour buses from all over Central America make their way to the shrine of Brother Pedro, as his followers refer to him. Revered for his work as a Franciscan missionary among the poor, the sick, and the less fortunate, Hermano Pedro is especially popular among the indigent. Following the Catholic ritual of pilgrims seeking favors, supplicants approach the grill-encased tomb on their knees.

Once at the altar showcasing the tomb, they observe several rituals particular to the shrine, each depending in part on the favors they are requesting. Most supplicants knock on the side of the tomb, a symbolic gesture requesting an Decision Making and Leave-Taking 47 audience with the saint. If the pilgrim seeks a cure for a physical ailment, he or she typically ties small wax figures of the body part that is ailing, such as a limb or a head, to the grillwork surrounding the tomb.

Supplicants also leave their written petitions in a canasta basket at the foot of the tomb, and still others rub a candle alongside the tomb after which they light and place it among hundreds of other burning candles in a makeshift altar outside the side entrance to the church.

Until , the caretaker of the shrine routinely collected and discarded the handwritten petitions left in the canasta. The Guatemalan representative, a young woman who lives in Guatemala City but attends mass at the Church of San Pedro, explained the project. First, she developed a petition form on which petitioners fill out their names, country of origin, the date, and their requests. She collects the completed petitions on a monthly basis and scans them into her home computer, after which she sends them as e-mail attachments in bunches of several dozen each to the different chapters of the brotherhood throughout the world.

On any given day, she said, six or seven members will be praying over a group of a hundred or so petitions. As devout believers of what Hermano Pedro can do, we believe that the petitions have a greater possibility of being heard by him if more people pray over them.

The development of the International Brotherhood of Hermano Pedro shows how devotion for contemporary saints can and does extend beyond the local boundaries of the shrine. In many ways, St. Pedro has become a transnational patron saint. With the advances 48 Migration Miracle in technology and communication, his faithful are no longer completely dependent on his presence through physical pilgrimages to the shrine. His followers can also experience his presence and remain connected to one another through their membership in a virtual worldwide community.

The petitions left for Hermano Pedro disclose much about the people. An analysis of eight hundred petitions that the brotherhood at the Church of San Francisco collected during a two-month period March and April indicates that most of the pilgrims who visited the shrine were the less fortunate from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Viewed in the original handwriting with spelling and grammatical errors unchanged, these petitions exude a heart-warming earnestness. The requests are humble and basic, asking for such things as a blessing for a good year, a stable family, or modest prosperity. A Salvadoran pilgrim placed the following petition in the canasta at the foot of Hermano Pedro: Grant us lord, by virtue of Hermano Pedro, what I ask you. To be with you in the kingdom, not to step in jail, to love God and have my loved ones together, peace and protection for me and my house, that I may never take what is mine.

Many of the requests in our analysis were for multiple basic goods and services that North Americans assume will be provided to the poor through tax-supported social agencies. But here in Central America, the less fortunate who have fallen on hard times have nowhere to turn but to a saint for divine intervention. In general, five overlapping areas of concern draw pilgrims to the shrine to seek favors from Hermano Pedro: health crises, financial distress, education issues, family interpersonal relations, and migration related worries. Those with migration petitions came seeking help from Hermano Pedro on a variety of migration matters ranging from family reunification with loved ones to protection for migrant children in the United States.

The consequences of migration for family members, either left behind or in the United States, worried all the petitioners. A wife and mother who does not mention her age or country of origin visited the Church of San Francisco in March with a desperate plea to Hermano Pedro to help her migrate so that her family could be reunited: Hermano Pedro, I ask you with all my heart that my son and I may go to a foreign land to be with my husband.

With all my heart, intercede before our Decision Making and Leave-Taking 49 father so that He may grant us that miracle. Hermano Pedro, please listen to a mother and a desperate wife, I want to give my son the chance to be in a stable home. Father, please, hear me out. Others voiced concern for safety on the journey north. A departing migrant who did not identify his home country pleaded for protection: I ask you, Hermano Pedro, to watch over me and to protect my trip north with permission from God and from you.

A young Guatemalan woman expressed similar trepidation and anxiety over her pending trip: Watch over and protect my family, to be good children to our parents. Our trip to Chicago we leave in your hands. Help me go to the United States to get a job to help my parents, and so I can pay for my car. A petitioner with little education asked Hermano Pedro for help in preparing his travels while at the same time thanking the saint for the migrant favor granted to his child: I went to five times masses that the Mexican visas be a success for me and him.

I thank you because my son arrive well. My son, my wife, please work for my children. The importance of national shrines to Central Americans and thus to migrants is evidenced by the grandeur of the structures housing them and the numbers of the devout who attend. During the Week of the Migrant, in August, the cathedral draws scores of departing and returning migrants. Once at the altar, supplicants touch, pray, rub their hands along the worn glass, and place at the foot of the altar a variety of ex-votos, including flowers and milagros, which fill Catholic shrines throughout Central America and Mexico.

Many of the Hondurans in the study reported visiting the Virgin of Suyapa to request protection before they embarked on their journey north. Wearing an elaborate gold crown, swathed in a white robe, and covered in the flag of El Salvador, the Virgin holds a gold palm leaf and a dark image of baby Jesus. Thus hanging by safety pins from her gown are hundreds of milagros, petitions, and ribbons. The gown, quickly soiled by the hundreds of thousands of hands that stroke it, is changed every month. Before each mass, the attending priest asks the parishioners if they have an intention or petition to share with the group.

The priest also reads some of the petitions left in the offering box the day before. When asked Decision Making and Leave-Taking 51 how many, he estimated that the attending priests read about fifteen migration petitions each week. Still, after mass they regularly approach the sanctuary for a blessing to protect them on their journey. In many ways, these blessings strengthen their petitions. Many, in fact, did not. They read from the Bible and he pledged his return. In some Protestant communities, the counseling was described as more public in nature.

As illustrated in the introduction, in the rural highlands of Guatemala where religion is often a combination of evangelical beliefs and practices and local indigenous customs, departing migrants and members of their families from Maya evangelical communities confer with traditional prayer makers and soothsayers at ayunos, or fasting and prayer services, before leaving on their journey north. Maya attend ayunos at sacred sites, including altars in private homes, but especially on hilltops and mountain summits.

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The attendees of ayunos come to appeal directly to God for numerous needs such as good health, prosperity, and overall spiritual guidance, and they convey their needs through a religious mediator who is often an evangelical pastor with his or her own ministry. Those who attend ayunos believe that if they fast before the service their prayers have a greater chance of being heard.

Ayunos take place in the morning for several hours on a weekly basis and generally attract fifty or more participants. At the monthly ayunos, the ceremonies can last up to several days and draw a crowd as large as several hundred. The event begins with a period of devout prayer and a sermon, followed by 52 Migration Miracle individual petitions whose contents vary but in general reflect the needs of the poor who remain marginalized by the larger society and have no other recourse than religion for help, guidance, and counsel.

Some request recovery from a sickness; for others, work is sorely needed; still others seek reunification with a deserting spouse. Increasingly, persons come to seek protection on the journey north. Presiding pastors of these ayunos say that it is not uncommon to counsel up to ten departing migrants or their family members on any given day. At the ayuno we attended on the summit of a mountain in western Guatemala, a number of attendees stepped forward with migration requests. When Pastor Sapon and I arrived, we encountered people of all ages seated and facing the leader who, dressed in the traditional huipil and corte, stood in front of a crude table propped up by brightly bound bundles of clothes.

Pastor Caxaj, an older Maya woman with long gray braids running down the length of her back, has led an independent ministry in her dirt-floor adobe home for twelve years. Many of the attendees were women, but among them was a group of about a dozen or so men who were preparing for their trip to Texas. Pastor Caxaj delivered her service in a mixture of Spanish and Quiche for the benefit of the older, non-Spanish speakers attending the ayuno.

After some time, Pastor Caxaj unwrapped the colorful bundles and showed us the traveling clothes of some of the prospective migrants who were attending the ayuno and were seeking prayer and guidance for their travels to the United States. Having their traveling clothes blessed was a final religious step before embarking on the journey.

The men, who were planning to leave within the next few days, were first-time migrants. They had coyotes, but these travelers had no idea what route they would be taking. They feared for their safety on the journey. Word had trickled back to the highlands of the hardships and dangers encountered along the trek, and how sometimes migrants were never heard from again. Pastor Caxaj turned to the young men and, along with her congregation, prayed for their safety.

Then she alone spoke to them and encouraged them not to stray from God and their faith once in United States. Others at the ayuno brought forward migration petitions. Four of the women prayed for brothers or husbands who were living and working without immigration papers in Houston. After the prayer meeting, Pastor Caxaj Decision Making and Leave-Taking 53 also shared her migration petition with us. Several years earlier, her son had left for the United States in hopes of securing a job and sending home to her and her disabled husband the money needed to keep her ministry afloat.

The prayers of her congregation, she believed, granted her son safe passage and successful employment. Born in Chile to parents of different nationalities, and as the daughter of a career diplomat, I developed early on a personal and intellectual interest in the topic of international migration. After receiving my Ph. Most of my research focuses on the social, economic and political implications of migration from Latin America to the United States. I have conducted fieldwork in established migrant receiving communities in Texas and new destination communities in North Carolina and their sending counterparts in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

My first book, Deciding to be Legal Temple University Press, investigated the settlement and development of a Maya community in Houston and its response to immigration reform, namely the Immigration, Reform and Control act of My second book, Migration Miracle Harvard University Press, traced the institutional and personal role of religion and spirituality in the migration journey from Central America to the United States. I am ongoing collaborator with Nestor Rodriguez and Karl Eschbach on the study of deaths of undocumented migrants during their journey to the United States. I have written extensively on the effects of recent U.

My most recent research, which will be the basis of my book project at the Wilson Center, examines the ways in which migrants with low levels of education acquire and transfer on-the-job technical and cultural skills across borders to navigate pathways to economic mobility. I am also in the early stages of drafting a comparative research proposal that would expand my research on religion and migration to the Africa-EU migratory system.