The Heavy Cost of Abandonment

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on August 17, 2010

The call came from a college student. He wanted to know if we at CIS were aware of any studies about women who have been abandoned by husbands who have emigrated to the United States.

I encountered such women when I traveled in Mexico as a reporter. They were often struggling, not only to raise their children, but to come to grips with the crushing reality of abandonment.

There doesn't seem to be a great deal of journalistic work or academic study of the problem. But a 2006 Spanish-language article from the Mexican state of Veracruz, takes account of it quite powerfully.

Citing a study by the state's Woman's Program, the article reports that "in 10 Veracruz municipalities, there are 2,300 women who were abandoned by husbands who had the dream of working in the United States and offering them a better future. The reality is that these men stopped making contacts with them, didn't send them remittance money, and left them with between one and five children."

It continues: "These women do everything they can to survive and to feed their children. They take work as domestic servants, as seamstresses, or making tortillas; they also work in the fields as if they were men. They assume the roles of father and mother. Meanwhile, their self respect erodes and they have feelings of guilt mixed with rancor toward the man who put such a burden on their shoulders and who stole their dream of building a stable family."

The article is accessible here.