Sunday, June 22, 2008

Breaking the Silence

It has been a while since I've posted here, for two (I think) very good reasons. The first is that when I returned from San Miguel last summer, I had a lot of data to process, and I'm still working on that material. The second is that I had a series of health issues that took all my time and energy, making my annual trips to Mexico less likely. Don't get me wrong, I'm doing okay right now, but I also know that I have to plan my future wisely. As much as I love Mexico and can't believe that this is the first summer in 15 years that I won't be there, there are times when you just have to take a step back and stay put.

At the same time, I've become involved with a new research project here in Northern Virginia, another "something" that I did not anticipate. When I finished my work in Kennett Square, I was ready to move permanently into my Mexican fieldwork and leave the world of gringos adjusting to their Latino neighbors to other scholars. Then Herdon, Virginia erupted into a firestorm of anti-immigrant controversy, and was soon followed by another larger, more organized (and troubling) anti-immigrant movement (The "Help Save" organizations) in Manassas, Virginia. Last fall I found myself drafting a research protocol to get into Manassas and talk to real people about their feelings about their changing communities, a project that just completed the first half (surveys) of Phase 1.

Phase 1 looks something like this: with a colleague, we picked a lovely neighborhood of about 1400 houses in the City of Manassas. We purposefully picked a location that was near a good bit of known immigrant housing (townhomes,apartments, small single family homes), but itself seemed to be a older established community of predominately Anglo-European Americans. We did a random door-to-door sample of one hundred of those households, asking residents about all types of issues in their community, like traffic, crime, taxes, and school changes. Now we are going back into the community to do extensive oral history interviews with 30 of the 100 informants who complete surveys to obtain a deeper, more nuanced idea of what is going on in Manassas. The idea here is to really understand the experiences and perspectives of people in the community.

In this regard, my life and work have changed a great deal in the last year--I was in Mexico one year ago today talking to Mexicans and Foreign expats about San Miguel de Allende. I still hope to get back to that project, but at the same time, I have a lot of material that I have work with on that project, and SMA is not going anywhere.

I just wanted to provide a small update for the regular, and very faithful readers.