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Forging a Borderland Economy: Swap Meets, Street Vendors, Immigration, and the Informal Economy in California's Imperial-Mexicali Valley, 1917-2000

My current manuscript is an economic and immigration history of the Imperial-Mexicali Valley of the California borderlands throughout the twentieth century. I argue that borderland residents and unauthorized immigrants forged economic opportunities in reaction to the rigid economic and immigration systems of the United States and Mexico. My work observes how people and immigrants work in the informal economy to elevate their socioeconomic status and that of their respective communities in often unrecognized ways. 

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The Las Palmas (Palm Trees) Swap Meet
Image Courtesy of Facebook Group "Old Calexico" and member Norma A Saldana. 

Swap meets as a formal economy & informal employment opportunity for unauthorized immigrants 

Pictured above is the Las Palmas Tianquis (swap meet) probably in the early 1970s. Founded by Raul and Alice Estrada in 1969, the plot of land in Calexico, California, allowed residents and immigrants (permanent residents and undocumented) to sell affordable merchandise to local borderland residents and transnational consumers. The founders and community called it Las Palmas because of the surrounding palm trees that protected customers from the sun, especially during the summer when temperatures can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The Imperial-Mexicali Valley 

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(Map on left created via ArcGIS)

(Map on right found in Alina R. Méndez, "More than Victims or Villains: Representations of Mexican Migrant Men in the Imperial-Mexicali Borderlands, 1942-1954," California History 98, no. 3 (2021): 30." Map by Franciso J. Ayala)

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