Thursday, October 27, 2011

This blog has moved

Dear Readers, I have moved this blog to a new address.  Please visit Living Ethnography at this URL

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Beyond the Borderlands: Updates, Readings, and more

I've created a new website for my book, Beyond the Borderlands, published last month by the University of California Press.  The website offers a sample chapter, upcoming readings and presentations, and information for reading groups and teachers.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Obama and NCLR

Obama addressed the National Council of La Raza today. It was exciting to see him live, although his comments were fairly predictable.  I've included a linke to the CNN coverage here.  I'll add a few of my own photos in a few minutes.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

2011 NCLR Annual Conference

I'm attending the National Council of La Raza conference this weekend.  I was a presenter this morning, talking about my research in Manassas.  It's been a fantastic weekend so far.

The Harvest/La Cosecha

I heard about this film today during the Latinas Brunch at NCLR.

The Harvest/La Cosecha - Theatrical Trailer from Shine Global on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What if the Mexicans (or immigrants) stop coming?

This article from the NY Post posed the question: what happens when Mexicans stop coming?  It examines the reasons-on both sides of the border-that have led to decreased immigration from Mexico.  It seems that changes in Mexico, such as a lower birth rate and increased socioeconomic status, and in the U.S., including a recession and fewer job opportunities, has brought immigration from Mexico to a halt.

What's next?  It all depends on the economy.  If things pick up, immigration likely will too, although perhaps not from Mexico in the numbers we've experienced in the past.

New Gun-Buyer Rule Approved for Mexican-Border States - ABC News

Finally, the DOJ has made a move to keep American-made firearms out of the hands of drug smugglers on the border.  It's a small step in the right direction.

Chasing the American Dream: A Better Life

From today's Washington Post, a review of a new film about a Mexican immigrant in L.A.:

Chasing the American dreamFriday, July 15, 2011By Ann Hornaday Early Oscar list-makers, please write down this name: Demian Bichir.Bichir, a movie star in Mexico whose most familiar role to date was as Fidel Castro in Steven Soderbergh’s “Che,” delivers one of the most powerful performances of the year in “A Better Life,” Chris Weitz’s engrossing, unassuming drama about an undocumented Mexican worker in contemporary Los Angeles. With such classics as “El Norte” and, more recently, “Sin Nombre” and “Under the Same Moon” having addressed the subject matter already and so well, viewers might be forgiven for asking just how many immigration movies we need. As “A Better Life” proves, as many as there are stories to tell.
In this case, the story concerns Carlos Galindo (Bichir), who does lawn-care work while taking care of his 14-year-old son, Luis (Jose Julian), an angry, spoiled kid who, surrounded by “Hollywood Cribs” on TV and gangs on the street, is on the verge of succumbing to the lures of thug life. When Carlos takes an opportunity to buy his boss’s truck, he’s finally in a position to create a business for himself. While he’s atop a swaying palm tree one day, that dream comes crashing down, turning the movie into a 21st-century American version of the wrenching Italian neorealist drama Bicycle Thieves.
Weitz, whose resume includes the dizzyingly diverse slate of “American Pie,” “About a Boy” and a “Twilight” movie, hews to a disarmingly simple storytelling style in “A Better Life,” which chronicles Carlos and Luis’s journey through the most elite and impoverished precincts of L.A. as they embark on a classic cinematic quest. But what Weitz and screenwriter Eric Eason capture so vividly is the sense of simultaneous dislocation and complete integration experienced by young people of foreign descent who have grown up drenched in American culture. With his hip-hop Spanglish cadences, Luis embodies the contradictions of that generation with poignant, pointed subtlety, whether with the withering contempt he gives his working-class dad in a posh nightclub or quizzically listening to the announcer whose Spanish he can’t understand at a local Fiesta del Charro.
If “A Better Life” falls into too-pat schematic order at times, its emotional pull is undeniable, thanks in large part to Bichir’s quietly potent performance of a good man who’s incapable of doing the wrong thing until he does. Without a scintilla of showboating or begging for the audience’s sympathy, Bichir never allows Carlos to be a victim, instead giving him the dignity of his choices: good and bad, smart and dumb, legal and illegal.“A Better Life” might not change any minds about immigration policy, but it illuminates the conversation with context, compassion and understanding. And by the time Carlos utters the film’s heart-stopper of a final line, audiences may feel ambivalent about where he’s going, but they’ll have a newly awakened sense of where he’s coming from.
Contains some violence, profanity and brief drug use. 

Changing Pattern of Mexican-American Population Growth | Pew Social & Demographic Trends

This report from the Pew Research Center discusses the growth in the Mexican-American population in the U.S. Immigration is no longer the major factor; the birthrate is.

The study notes:

The pattern from 2000-2010 was a change from the previous two decades, when births to Mexican-American mothers in the U.S. were matched or surpassed by the number of new immigrant arrivals.
The birth trend is largely attributable to the surge of immigration from Mexico in recent decades. The report uses data from the Current Population Survey taken by the Census Bureau, as well as Mexican government data on migration of Mexicans in and out of that country. Immigration to the U.S. from Mexico ebbed in the 2000s compared with the 1990s.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Field School: Fits and Starts

When I met with students this week,  we gathered in small groups so I could have one-on-one time with each research team. The purpose of the team meeting is to review the week of research and to make certain that these emerging ethnographers are on the right path.

For the most part, the first independent week in the field has gone extremely well, although some students were so sure. One team completed entire interview and at the end the informant asked them to please delete it. She wasn't happy with what she had to say, and on reflection decided she didn't want to have her statements immortalized in an archive. "What to do?" the team asked.  That one was simple. You erase the interview. The experience points to the fact that ethnographic fieldwork can be really difficult. You can spend time and energy and effort preparing for what you hope will be a successful oral history collection. In the end, even your best laid plans might not work out.

Other students reported great interviews, but they didn't produce the information they were hoping to collect. “He didn't have much to say about Columbia Pike," was a common response to several initial interviews.  One student was concerned that she had committed a faux pas, in that she had to decline an informant's request to do an interview in the public space. It's true, if we were not concerned about the overall quality of her recordings while doing the oral histories, completing an interview at a restaurant, a public park, or even a laundromat might work. However, the digital recorders that we use are highly sensitive and produce  broadcast quality recordings. Because of this, and because one of our goals is to produce an oral documents that will be available for generations, we have to be a bit more selective of the places where we conduct interviews.  Once we explain our reasoning, most informants understand.

Despite a few minor glitches, initial reports were very positive. Students found their informants to be generous and talkative, and even in instances where the students felt like they didn't do their best, upon reviewing the information they found was that the collection was still a success. This too, is reflection of being relative newcomers to ethnographic data collection. It's hard to take a step back and see how effective your efforts are while you're in the midst of everything.

We have two weeks to go, but I began to plan for our final report. I booked a room at the Arlington Central Public Library so that community members can more easily attend. Ideally, I would love to have everyone who participated in the interviews and anyone who would like to participate in an interview in the future, as well as our sponsors collaborators with the Columbia Pike Documentary Project and other interested parties, to join us on June 23. I have posted details below.

On Thursday June 23 from 4-5:30 PM researchers from George Mason University will present an overview of the Columbia Pike Documentary Project Oral History Collection. This project is a collaborative project between the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress ( and the Folklore Studies Program at George Mason University (

Researchers will present an overview of their month-long oral history collection and and details about the collection that will be archived at the Arlington Public Library's Virginia Room and at the Northern Virginia Folklife Archive.You can follow the progress of the field school athttp://livingethnography.b and view the photo documentary project at

This event will take place in the Auditorium of Arlington Central Library.

Transportation: the Central Library is a short walk from the Ballston Metro Station and parking at the library is free.