Frontline Activists: Mexicana Care Workers, Subjectivity, and the Defense of the Elderly

Abstract

In this article, I focus on Mexican immigrant women who, as care workers in various care settings in the wealthy city of Santa Barbara, California, attempt to defend aging Americans patients from devaluation and harm. To understand why vulnerable women defend more privileged citizens of the nation, I address Mexicana subjectivity. I argue that neoliberal policies have created multiple vulnerabilities for Mexican women and it is in formal care contexts where these vulnerabilities intertwine with that of their patients. Workers’ feelings of shame, complicity, and empathy help explain a defense of the Other. A significant form of defense is informal sector family-based care. This article is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2009 and 2011.