Skip to main content

Alina Méndez

Ph.D. candidate in history, UC San Diego

Residency: September 2016 – May 2017

Research Project: Cheap for Whom? Migration, Farm Labor, and Social Reproduction in the Imperial Valley-Mexicali Borderlands, 1942-1969

Research Interests: internal and international migration; labor; U.S.-Mexico borderlands; and Mexican-American history, family and social reproduction


Alina Méndez is a Ph.D. candidate in history at UC San Diego. She received her bachelor’s in Latin American history from UC Berkeley. Méndez’s research examines the widespread term “cheap labor,” exploring who bears the cost of low wages.

In her dissertation, she argues the agriculture industry in California’s Imperial Valley has seen ample access to “cheap labor” since the mid-20th century because Mexicali, Baja California, has subsidized the reproduction of a trans-border labor force employed in agriculture but otherwise denied social membership in the U.S. Derived from interviews and archival sources from Mexico and the U.S., Méndez reveals how Mexican agricultural workers constructed trans-border livelihoods to access the U.S. labor market, yet also to live and work in proximity to loved ones in Mexico. A 2016-17 Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow, Méndez’s research also is supported by a Fulbright-Garcia Robles Research Grant, the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States and a Jack Henning Graduate Fellowship in Labor Culture & History.