My current project looks at the history of Mexican student migration to the United States over the course of the twentieth century. Taking a transnational approach, I trace the story of how international scholarship programs developed and became a permanent part of the Mexican government and a key piece of Mexico-U.S. relations. I write about both institutions and the experiences of individuals to tell this story.
My doctoral dissertation explores Mexican students in the United States and scholarship programs in five chapters. In the first, I look at the early history of Mexican and U.S. scholarship programs before 1940, showing that during these years, the idea of sending Mexico’s best students to the United States was controversial. The second chapter shows how Mexican students who received scholarships during this era bargained with their sponsors and argued that their journeys abroad were part of a nationalist project. My third chapter moves forward to the mid-twentieth century when several new, large scholarship programs were created in an era of easier bilateral relations and economic growth. These programs were less personal than the earlier scholarship offerings, and they were more explicit about why sending Mexicans to the United States was such an important task. In the fourth chapter, I study this same period from the perspective of the students, showing how their experience as relatively privileged migrants in the United States helped reinforce their sense that they had a critical role to play in Mexico’s future. The last chapter considers how this empowered generation helped to create a permanent, national scholarship-granting agency in Mexico in 1971. This was only possible, I claim, because by that time, the idea that foreign-trained “brains” were a crucial piece of Mexican development was widely accepted–an acceptance that U.S.-educated Mexicans had encouraged as they rose to positions of power.
I have presented parts of this project at conferences and workshops in Mexico and the United States. To hear me share some of my findings and make some links to the present, please watch this interview I did for C-SPAN 3’s American History TV in January 2017.
I did archival work in Mexico City, Washington, DC, California, Texas, and New York. I have also conducted oral histories with Mexicans who studied in the United States between the 1940s and 1980s.