This week’s articles analyze and describe how Virginia conceptualizes and comes to terms with the increase of non-American-born people and how that punctuates conversations about exclusion and American values. Laura Zarrugh’s, “The Latinaization of Central Shenandoah Valley, explains the history and contemporary response to Latino immigration in Harrisonburg. Harrisonburg was once a place that capitalized off its “white American rural” majority. However, the pioneering done by Latin and Hispanic people, propagated the “Latinization” of the places that were once dominated by white people. Zarrugh noted that some of the reasons why there has been an increase in Latino immigration in Harrisonburg have been due to the profitability of the apple and poultry industry. As the article notes the “the poultry plants served as the main point of entry into the local job market for many immigrants and refugees regardless of their education, occupational history or knowledge of English” (26). Another reason was the prominence of the church. At first, the church, specifically Mennonites, became the entry points and partners in helping the Latino pioneers have a place to live or flee “political asylum” (34), and churches became a place where immigrants and refugees could receive living expense assistance. Guatemalans and El Salvadorians could receive help from getting shoes or blankets. During this time, Spanish churches were propagated and daughter communities that evoked the “expansion of roots into a new environment” (45). Near the end of the article, Zarrugh recommended that Shenandoah and the overall conversation on Latinization in America could be better understood by understanding the diversity of immigration and not assuming that all of them come from Mexico because of the implication of that concepts makes them a monolith.
Dennesh Sohoni and Jennifer Bickham Mendez’s “Defining Immigrants newcomers in new destinations: symbolic boundaries in Williamsburg, Virginia” and David W. Haines and Karen E. Rosenblum’s, “Perfectly American: Constructing the Refugee Experience” both explain news responses to the increase in refugees and immigrants in Virginia. Sohoni and Mendez’s piece tested the Virginia Gazette from 2006 to 2007 in their response to the growing immigration of Williamsburg. They found that this article italicized some of the national conversations regarding immigrants, and the necessity for them to be excluded. They also expelled identity politics by showing that certain non-American-born people (foreign students) staying for a short amount of time were welcome, and “bad immigrants” were not as deserving of that same kindness. This conversation was continued in Haines and Rosenblum’s article. Instead of disavowing immigrants, Richmond news outlets often highlighted them, and stories that exemplified American values. However, the authors note that this conceptualization can also be harmful, because it provokes a “saviors” mentality that only values immigrant and refugee stories when it fits a narrative.
One Reply to “Immigration”
Nice job! Looking forward to conversation today.