Footsteps of Spirits

In the Footsteps of Spirits:Migrant Womens Testimonials In a Time of Heightened Border Enforcement


Anna Ochoa O'Leary*




IT WAS EARLY SPRING when I interviewed a group of four migrant women who found refuge at the Nogales, Sonora, migrant shelter, Albergue San Juan Bosco. The weather outside had yet to shed the harshness ofwinter but inside the shelter the women radiated warm support for each other after their border-crossing ordeal. The objective of my research, "Women at the Intersection: Immigration Enforcement and Transnational Migration on the U.S.-Mexico Border," had been inspired by my scholarly interest in death on the border, and in the spring of 2006, I began to systematically collect the tertimonios of repatriated migrant women on their border-crossing experiences.l The interviews with migrant women focused on their encounter with U.S. immigration enforcement agents, and these experiences were couched within broader social and economic contexts that informed their decisions to migrate. My conversation with four of the women on this cold March evening began like many others. Their stories by then had become all too familiar: descriptions of the arduous trek through an inhospitable desert; the almost inevitable attack by border bandits ("bajadores"), who robbed them of their meager possessions; and, ultimately, apprehension by the U.S. Border Patrol and eventual repatriation to Mexico. This particularevening, however, the dialogue turned towards reflection on the women's vulnerabilities and fears. They described the familiar pattern of being led in groups across the border by their gutas (guides), and the practice of short rest periods after hours of fast-paced walking.



* Lecturer at Mexican American Studies and Research Center, University of Arizona,



Tucson, Arizona, USA. Email:



Full Article: Footsteps of Spirits