Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Nursing

Dissertation Committee

Mary Ann Hautman, PhD, RN, Chair; Diane C. Hatton, DNSc, RN; Kenneth Serbin, PhD


Bi-National Grounded Theory, Indigenous, migration, nursing, Oaxaca (Mexico), US-Mexico border, women


The growing feminization of the migration of ethnic indigenous women, such as Mixtecs, Zapotecs and Triquis from the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, are altering the dynamics and configuration of traditional Mexican migration, making it especially significant for the health professions. Informed by a postcolonial ecofeminist paradigm, this bi-national grounded theory study explored the migration and health experiences of indigenous Oaxacan immigrant/migrant women. Data collection using participant observation and interviewing occurred in Oaxaca, Mexico, along the US-Mexico border, and the interior of California. Dimensional analysis was used as the method of data analysis to generate theoretical understandings of these phenomena. The explanatory matrix of dimensional analysis creates a context of colonial legacies that thwart the aspirations of indigenous women to care for their families, achieve further education or avoid stagnation, thereby spawning the conditions for migration. As the central perspective focusing the analysis, crossing myriad borders describes the difficulties and barriers that indigenous women must surmount as migrants/immigrants in an alien place. Salient dimensions within these borders of geography, culture, language, legality and new health experiences emerged as culture shock in coping with fractured families, language differences and undocumentedness. Participants described having to learn many new things and braving hazardous living and working conditions inimical to health. They encountered new health risks, gained some new health assets, and evolved a sequence of health seeking characterized by attributes of relationality, efficacy, and affordability. Their resolve to keep going (salir adelante) in spite of many difficulties is motivated by their investment in their children's future. Nursing practice responding to the health care needs of this population needs to be informed by knowledge of indigenous health practices, of the health risks arising from postcolonial conditions in Oaxaca, of the safety profiles of medications and herbs from Mexico, the stresses and dangers of migration, and of patterns of health seeking and knowing. Nursing praxis should be directed at the structural conditions that induce migration, the human rights situation along the border, and at collaborating with immigrant rights groups on issues of amnesty and changing the devastating consequences of the latest 1996 immigration law.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access



Included in

Nursing Commons