Saturday, July 26, 2014

Guatemala/New Bedford

This post was started in February -- several months before politicians and the media started to talk about the 'unaccompanied Central American child migrant crisis". 

From time to time I have dedicated this blog to the "other part" of my Guatemalan research, which focuses on the Maya K'iche' migrant community in New Bedford, Massachusetts. My involvement with this community, in the wake of the 2007 Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid on the (now defunct) Michael Bianco textile factory, was the rabbit hole that I dropped into, that led me to Guatemala. And now the two "fields" are very closely intertwined, for a couple of reasons. One is that migration to New Bedford has not stopped, or even appreciably slowed down. Even now as I write this, three relatives of friends of mine in New Bedford (two younger brothers of one friend, and the son of another) are in immigration detention in Texas.  A younger sister of the friend whose younger brothers are in detention arrived in New Bedford last fall. She left Guatemala not long after I had seen her in August (she had said nothing to me of her plans, but I did not know her well, and only saw her at a celebration attended by several dozen people). Another acquaintance, who has lived here for many years -- the oldest son in a large family -- has been joined in the past year by two of his grandsons, who are in their late teens. Most of these recent arrivals are thus quite young, and most are coming to join relatives who are already here. So even the longtime residents (I use that term advisedly, as most do not have legal residency, and the older migrants, especially those who have wives, children and grandchildren in Guatemala, do plan to move back eventually), and older migrants who do not use social media, stay abreast of events in Guatemala -- at least events that affect their localized communities and families. For many, "Guatemala" is a kind of abstraction, and they are more concerned with how many bushels of corn their families' plots have yielded than they are about the government's approval of a new hydroelectric project in San Pedro Soloma in Huehuetenango. 

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