Tijuana is the largest of Mexico’s northern border cities, and although it has struggled during the United States’ dramatic escalation of border enforcement, it nonetheless remains deeply connected with California by one of the largest, busiest international ports of entry in the world. In Passing: Two Publics in a Mexican Border City (University of Chicago Press, 2017), Rihan Yeh probes the border’s role in shaping Mexican senses of self and collectivity. Drawing on extensive fieldwork, Yeh examines a range of ethnographic evidence: public demonstrations, internet forums, popular music, dinner table discussions, police encounters, workplace banter, intensely personal interviews, and more. Through these everyday exchanges, she shows how the promise of passage and the threat of prohibition shape Tijuana’s communal sense of “we” and throw into relief long-standing divisions of class and citizenship in Mexico.
Out of the nitty-gritty of quotidian talk and interaction in Tijuana, Yeh captures the dynamics of desire and denial that permeate public spheres in our age of transnational crossings and fortified borders. Original and accessible, Passing is a timely work in light of current fierce debates over immigration, Latin American citizenship, and the US-Mexico border.
Amir Lehman is an MA student in linguistics at UCL.