SIU Department Name | Page Title

siu logo siupress logo

SIU logo


Main Content Area

Del Otro Lado

Del Otro Lado

Literacy and Migration across the U.S.-Mexico Border

Add to Cart

Susan V. Meyers


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
208 pages, 6 x 9, 19 illustrations


Additional Materials

About the Book

In Del OtroLado: Literacy and Migration across the U.S.-Mexico Border, author Susan V. Meyers draws on her year-long ethnographic study in Mexico and the United States to analyze the literacy practices of Mexican-origin students on both sides of the border.

Meyers begins by taking readers through the historical development of the rural Mexican town of Villachuato. Through a series of case studies spanning the decades between the Mexican Revolution and the modern-day village, Meyers explores the ever-widening gulf between the priorities of students and the ideals of the public education system. As more and more of Villachuato’s families migrate in an effort to find work in the wake of shifting transnational economic policies like NAFTA, the town’s public school teachers find themselves frustrated by spiraling drop-out rates. Meyers discovers that students often consider the current curriculum irrelevant and reject the established value systems of Mexico’s public schools. Meyers debunks the longstanding myth that literacy is tied to economic development, arguing that a “literacy contract” model, in which students participate in public education in exchange for access to increased earning potential, better illustrates the situation in rural Mexico.

Meyers next explores literacy on the other side of the border, traveling to Marshalltown, Iowa, where many former citizens of Villachuato have come to reside because of the availability of jobs for unskilled workers at the huge Swift meat-packing plant there. Here she discovers that Mexican-origin families in the United States often consider education a desirable end in itself rather than a means to an end. She argues that migration has a catalyzing effect on literacy, particularly as Mexican migrant families tend to view education as a desirable form of prestige.

Meyers reveals the history and policies that have shaped the literacy practices of Mexican-origin students, and she raises important questions about not only the obligation of the United States to educate migrant students, but also those students’ educational struggles and ways in which these difficulties can be overcome. This transnational study is essential reading for scholars, students, educators and lawmakers interested in shaping the future of educational policy.


Susan V. Meyers is an assistant professor of English at Seattle University, where she teaches fiction and composition. The recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship in 2007–8 and a number of awards for her writing and teaching, she is the author of articles about literacy and migration in a variety of academic journals and numerous works of short fiction and poetry. Her first novel, Failing the Trapeze, will be published in 2014.


"Meyers simultaneously provides insightful critical analysis and a fascinating story about the intersections of literacy, education, and migration in the rural Mexican community of Villachauto. Meyers describes the educational experiences of this community as based on a 'literacy contract' that 'does not always deliver on its promise.' As such, immigrant families come to value literacy in ways that are different from those of Mexican and US educational systems. To this end, her research provides valuable insight—particularly for educators—on the challenges facing students in rural Mexico as well as migrant students in US schools.  Meyers’s descriptions of students’ and families’ experiences are rich and vibrant, and her analyses are grounded firmly in literacy theory as well as a detailed history of Villachauto and the Mexican and American education systems."—CHOICE

“Despite the abundant research on literacy and education of Latino and Mexican-origin people within the United States, cross-national ethnographic research involving both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border is still rare. Meyers’s book is indispensable in today’s world of transnational flows of people, knowledge, and practices, and particularly in the complex context of the officially promised but actually denied socioeconomic integration of the North American region.”—Gregorio Hernández-Zamora, author of Decolonizing Literacy: Mexican Lives in the Era of Global Capitalism