Date of Award

Fall 10-1-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Inhorn, Marcia


This dissertation evaluates the experience of Latina migrant mothers living in New Haven, Connecticut amid the COVID-19 pandemic. I ask: How do Latin American migrant women accommodate traumatic histories and motherhood amid a global public health and economic crisis? This ethnography demonstrates the powerful ways women cope with histories of trauma and ongoing structural adversity. Using the metaphor of the monarch butterfly, I consider processes of migration from Latin America and adjustment to life in the U.S., motherhood including the sacrifices women make for the betterment of their children, and metamorphosis, or transformations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing structural vulnerability. Using person-centered ethnography, oral history, and archival data, I constitute intersubjective experiences within their political, social, historical, and cultural contexts. In Part I, “Migration,” I re-evaluate the demographic category of “Latinx,” consider patterns of migration from Latin America to New Haven, examine relationships between the Black and Latinx communities of New Haven, and trace movements of collective organizing for empowerment of the New Haven Latinx community. In Part II, “Motherhood,” I narrate the lives of migrant mothers, attending to their experiences of state failure in Latin America, ongoing structural violence in the U.S., and adaptation, focusing on the ways women orient themselves toward the futures of their children. I coin the terms “strategic coupling” to characterize the ways women engage in romantic and legal relationships with men to access social, political, and financial capital; “imperative resilience” to describe cognitive and social strategies of survival and resistance to oppressive regimes; and “intergenerational fortitude” to refer to the ways women harness the wisdom, experience, and values of their maternal forbearers to better support their children. In Part III, “Metamorphosis,” I discuss the embodied and sociopolitical impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on migrant populations, interrogate the racialization of Latina pregnancy and birth and experiences of bureaucratic disentitlement in the process of care-seeking, and discuss policy solutions to mitigate the harms of structural vulnerability for Latin American migrant mothers. Through this engaged and ethnographic work, I aim to promote structural competency for scholars and clinicians and advance health equity for migrant communities.