Elizabeth Farfán-Santos

Jan 24, 2023

Undocumented Motherhood

Conversations on Love, Trauma, and Border Crossing

University of Texas Press 2022

Claudia Garcia crossed the border because her toddler, Natalia, could not hear. Leaving behind everything she knew in Mexico, Claudia recounts the terror of migrating alone with her toddler and the incredible challenges she faced advocating for her daughter's health in the United States. When she arrived in Texas, Claudia discovered that being undocumented would mean more than just an immigration status—it would be a way of living, of mothering, and of being discarded by even those institutions we count on to care.

Elizabeth Farfán-Santos spent five years with Claudia. As she listened to Claudia's experiences, she recalled her own mother's story, another life molded by migration, the US-Mexico border, and the quest for a healthy future on either side. Witnessing Claudia's struggles with doctors and teachers, we see how the education and medical systems enforce undocumented status and perpetuate disability. At one point, in the midst of advocating for her daughter, Claudia suddenly finds herself struck by debilitating pain. Claudia is lifted up by her comadres, sent to the doctor, and reminded why she must care for herself.

A braided narrative that speaks to the power of stories for creating connection, Undocumented Motherhood: Conversations on Love, Trauma, and Border Crossing (University of Texas Press, 2022) reveals what remains undocumented in the motherhood of Mexican women who find themselves making impossible decisions and multiple sacrifices as they build a future for their families.

Elizabeth Farfán-Santos is a medical anthropologist and the author of Black Bodies, Black Rights: The Politics of Quilombolismo in Contemporary Brazil.

Reighan Gillam is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Southern California. She is the author of Visualizing Black Lives: Ownership and Control in Afro-Brazilian Media (University of Illinois Press).

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Reighan Gillam

Reighan Gillam is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Southern California. Her research examines the ways in which Afro-Brazilian media producers foment anti-racist visual politics through their image creations.

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