Unpacking longings to return: Guatemalans and Salvadorans in Phoenix, Arizona

Michelle Moran-Taylor, Cecilia Menjívar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Many migration studies emphasize the settlement process and more recently transnational attachments and identities, but less consideration is given to the idea of return. This article focuses on first-generation Guatemalans and Salvadorans in the United States and examines the varying degrees of migrants' desires to return home versus actual return. Specifically, the paper highlights the persistence among these migrants, who live and work in Phoenix, Arizona, of a "diasporic" or "transnational" tendency to think of home. This emphasis is important because we do not assume that migrants have clear-cut options about their migration movements. Additionally, it allows us to consider migrants' social imaginary - the divergent ways in which men and women in our study imagine their return and express their intents to return, which in turn, may influence their responses toward migration. For heuristic reasons, we identify three distinct conceptual categories of longings to return - assertive, ambivalent, and no desire to return. Drawing from narratives of Guatemalan and Salvadoran migrants' experiences in Phoenix gathered through in-depth interviews, the paper reveals that all three kinds of expressions outlined demonstrate the significance that the location of immediate family, particularly children, seems to have in ultimately shaping longings to return back home. These considerations highlight the fundamentally social nature of immigrants' seemingly most individual motivations and desires - to return or to stay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-121
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Migration
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography


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