Anthro in the news 7/22/13

• The trail of undocumented migrants to the U.S.

“Since 2009, anthropologist Jason De León has led groups of students from across the U.S. and Canada through the Sonoran Desert to study unauthorized migration using archaeological and anthropological methods. The project has collected and cataloged more than 10,000 artifacts left along the way by those trekking the desert,” reports the Arizona Daily Star‘s Perla Trevizo. “He can usually tell how old the site is or how far the migrants walked by the objects found. For instance, black shoe polish tells him it’s an older site from a time when migrants painted their water bottles to attract less attention. Now, they buy them already black.”

Jason De León
Jason De León examines a bottle of pond water left behind by migrants after a Border Patrol apprehension. Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star

De León, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan, started the Undocumented Migration Project to record history and get a fuller picture of what’s happening: “Undocumented migration is a complex phenomenon…I want to provide reliable information to help the public see behind the curtain.”

Half of the research is done by walking the same trails migrants use. The other half is spent talking to border crossers staying in the migrant shelters in Nogales, Sonora, or getting ready for their journey in the town of Altar, Sonora.

The New York Times Sunday Magazine included a spread with photographs taken by De León’s colleague, Richard Barnes. De León’s research was covered recently by NPR.

• Racism and pesticides harming U.S. farmworkers

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies
Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies/UC Press

Indian Country published a review of a new book that shows how racist discrimination against indigenous Mexican farmworkers in the United States is literally making them sick.

Medical anthropologist and UC Berkeley assistant professor of health and social behavior, Seth Holmes, has just published Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. The book chronicles Homes’ in-depth study of the lives of indigenous Triqui farmworkers who travel from Oaxaca, Mexico to the western states of the United States and back, and how these farmworkers experience unfair treatment, inadequate healthcare and horrible living conditions.

Holmes lived and worked with a group of Triqui farmworkers for over one and a half years, traveling with them during an illegal cross of the Arizona-Mexico border, then on to picking berries in Washington state, pruning vineyards in California (along with a week of homelessness living in cars), and harvesting corn in Oaxaca, Mexico, the home state of the Triquis.

Discrimination against Triqui farmworkers, Holmes said, can be seen starting with the jobs they are given on farms: “The Triquis were given the hardest jobs, picking strawberries in Washington state for instance … This work involved putting their bodies into repetitive positions, crouched and picking, under stress and all weather, seven days a week, exposed to pesticides and insects that made them get sick more often.”
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