Reunification Experiences and Health Needs of Mexican Women who Stayed Behind and their Returning Migrant Partners: An Intersectional Critical Ethnographic Study

  • Experiencias de Reunificación y Necesidades de Salud de Mujeres Mexicanas que se Quedan Atrás y sus Parejas Migrantes en Retorno: Un Estudio Etnográfico Crítico

  • Author / Creator
    Fernández-Sánchez, Higinio
  • Return migration is a reality that many Mexican nationals face. Existing evidence suggests return migrants encounter multiple social, political, economic, and health challenges in their re-integration to home societies; however, less is known about the reunification experiences and health needs of women who stayed behind. The aim of this doctoral research was to examine the reunification experiences and health needs of women who stayed behind and their returning migrant partners from an intersectional perspective. A critical ethnographic study was completed in Agua Dulce, a rural community in Veracruz, Mexico. Veracruz is known for its high migration flows. Intersectionality theory guided this research, which involved completing a literature review of women who stayed behind across transnational spaces. The study also involved performing a critical policy analysis of 20 national return migration policies in Mexico, participant observation, and interviews with key informants. I conducted separate interviews with women who stayed behind (n=20), return migrants (n=12), health care providers (n=6), and community leaders (n=12). Key findings included the lack of inclusion of receiving families and communities during return migrants’ integration processes, as well as reunited couples encountering multiple health challenges due to HIV/AIDS, with testing and treatment options not available in Agua Dulce for reunited couples. The research study also revealed the influence of the intersection of age, gender, and employment status on reunited couples’ relationship pathways: 1) ending the relationship, 2) continuing the relationship, or 3) ending the relationship but continuing to live together according to agreed-upon arrangements. Overall, all families in Agua Dulce face reunification and re-integration challenges, and family rupture is common when couples are not able to adjust to each other’s way of living.
    This dissertation is composed of six chapters: an introductory chapter, four core chapters, and a concluding chapter. Chapter Two details a systematic scoping review of the international literature on women who stay behind while their partners migrate across international borders. An identified gap is return migration—namely, the reunification experiences and health needs of return migrants and women who stayed behind. The study findings are discussed in Chapters Three to Five. Chapter Three focuses on using the intersecting principles of community engagement and social justice in qualitative community research. Chapter Four contains a critical analysis of 20 return migration policies in Mexico, and Chapter Five more deeply examines the intersection of age, gender, and employment status in reunited couples’ relationship pathways in Agua Dulce. The final chapter of this dissertation concludes with a summary of the doctoral research study’s strengths and weaknesses. Implications for health and public policy, practice, future research, and intervention work are also outlined.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2023
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.