Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Beyond the Borderlands

Well, it's finally happening.  My book is coming out.  Here is a preview of the cover.  It will be available on Amazon in April.  Here is a synopsis:

Immigration from Mexico was once considered a localized problem.  In the last three decades immigrants have moved beyond the U.S.-Mexico borderlands to diverse communities across the U.S., with the most striking transformations in American suburbs and rural small towns.  These new locations of immigrant settlement have generated new ways of thinking about immigration, belonging and local identity.  Beyond the Borderlands vividly captures the difficulties of the early years of Mexican settlement in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, a small farming community known as the "Mushroom Capital of the World."  In an evocative and highly readable account based on a ten-year ethnographic study in Mexico and Pennsylvania, Beyond the Borderlands considers how feelings of belonging and displacement are central concerns for communities that have become new destinations of Mexican settlement.

Beyond the Borderlands traces the process of migration and belonging, drawing on experiences of Mexican settlers and their American neighbors.  It demonstrates that newcomers and long-term residents must each adjust to the transformations brought on by immigration and the new community that is emerging as a result.  Beyond the Borderlands completes the cycle of migration, following Mexican families as they return to their home community in Mexico for holidays and vacations, and in the process revealing the tenuous sense of belonging that Mexicans experience as they journey home.

Friday, March 11, 2011

News from the Pike

I spend a lot of time in Arlington this week.  Most of it was spent interviewing folks and getting familiar with the cultural landscape, but two things struck me as interesting, one of which I want to follow up on in the coming weeks.

The first is the destruction of the Arlington Mill Community Center.  Built in 1965 and originally a Safeway store, the community center is largely acknowledged as an important part of the social life of  immigrant communities along the Pike.
The center, pictured on the left, looked to be in pretty good shape.  The new center will be larger, more modern and offer more amenities for community members.  It won't be finished until 2013, however.

There is a strong need for a community center like this in most neighborhoods, but only a handful in Northern Virginia have the luxury of having one within walking distance.

I'll be documenting the progress of the new Arlington Mill here

This is the plan for the new Arlington Mill Center.  It should be an amazing addition.

The Utah Way

The last few years have been somewhat Dickensonian--the best and worst of times.  I can cheer for the new gay marriage resolutions, but despair at the Congressman King's anti-Muslim crusade on the Hill.

Then there are the unexpected joys, like the "Utah Way."  The immigration bill passed in the Utah state legislature, and immigration enforcement bill.  The legislation includes both an enforcement provision that is a much more reasonable approach to dealing with immigrants who have committed crimes (that police say won't make much difference) and a guest-worker program that could mark a turning point in the way Americans think about immigration, if it survives constitutional challenge.  The law grants legal status to undocumented workers and allows them to live normal lives.  It appears to be a one-state version of the overarching immigration reform package that Congress has repeatedly tried, and failed, to enact.

What is so encouraging about this is that the Mormon church has been such a strong moral force behind this legislation, as has the business community.  Finally, conservatives have come to see the importance of immigrants to local economies and living up to their religious values.  The Catholic Church could learn a few lessons from the LDS community in this regard.

The law is not perfect, but it give me hope.  For that, I'm giving thanks today.