Although Tijuana has historically been one of the primary crossing points between Mexico and the United States for undocumented migrants, representations of the city primarily focus on its reputation for sex, drugs, and crime, excluding its significance in the international migration dynamic. In Border Lives, Sergio Chavez moves beyond Tijuana's infamous image to tell the story of a diverse group of individuals who live in Tijuana and use both sides of the border as a resource to construct their livelihoods. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews, Chavez explores the complex and often contradictory ways in which the border shapes the lives of border crossers. Due to the precarious nature of access to the border, some were only able to use the border as a resource in the past, while others continue to seek ways to access the border in the future. Yet for all of these border crossers-past, present, and future-the border itself plays a significant role not only in their livelihood strategies, but also their lifestyles. The border shapes respondents' knowledge and relationships, controls their time, and allows them to convert U.S. wages into a Mexican standard of living without losing the social and cultural comforts of Tijuana as their home.
Beyond mere ethnography, this book provides empirical grounding to theories of how the border shapes human action, offering a substantial contribution to migration and labor theory.