Because I Don't Have Wings
Stories of Mexican Immigrant Life
For Mexican workers, the agricultural valleys of the inland Northwest are a long way from home. But there they have established communities, settlements recent enough that it feels like these newly arrived immigrant mexicanos are pioneers, still getting used to the Anglos and to each other. This book looks at the inner lives of Mexican immigrants in a northwestern U.S. boomtown, a loose collection of families from Michoacán and surrounding states living a mere 150 miles from Canada. They are more isolated than most mexicano communities closer to home, and they endure severe winters that make life more difficult still. Neighborhoods form, dissolve, and re-form. Family members who leave may stay in touch, but friends very often simply vanish, leaving only their nicknames behind. Without a market or a plaza, residents meet at weddings, christenings, and funerals—or at the food bank. Philip Garrison has spent most of his life in this region and shares in vivid prose tales of immigrant life, both contemporary and historical, revealing the dual lives of first-generation Mexican immigrants who move smoothly between the Yakima Valley and their homes in Mexico. And with a scholar’s eye he examines figures of speech that reflect mexicano feelings about immigrant life, offering glimpses of adaptation through offhand remarks, family spats, and town gossip. Written with irony but bursting with compassion, Because I Don’t Have Wings features vivid characters, telling anecdotes, and poignant reflections on life, unfolding an immigrant’s world strikingly different from the one we usually read about. Adaptation, persistence, and survival, we learn, are traits that mexicano culture values. We also learn that, over time, mexicano immigrants don’t merely adapt to the culture of el norte, they transform it.
"he weaves together the centuries-old history of the immigrants' origins in Michoacan, their cultural and religious customs, and their struggle to keep these traditions alive." —Booklist“A rich mass of imaginative impressions in subtly researched pieces, stylistically polished, candid, and authentic in perspective.” —Tucson Weekly”This book is strong and bold . . . and undeniably strange. The details of lives played out in the shadows are surreal, sometimes haunting, often deeply moving. It’s an eye-opener that all Americans should read.” —Luis Urrea, author of Nobody’s Son“No one has written with greater insight and honesty about Mexican immigration than Philip Garrison. In this important book, he locates the turbulent interface of Hispanic and mainstream American cultures, and dwells there, alert, observant, empathic.” —John Witte, editor of Northwest Review