Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Indiantown, Florida

The focus of my sabbatical interest is in exploring Biblical migration narratives and connecting them with individual and communities' own story of migration. I have chosen to focus primarily on rural areas that have large immigrant populations. The majority of rural communities that are bucking the trend towards consolidation of all of their business and services (due to aging and/or shrinking population) are doing so because of immigration. In fact, the number of immigrants moving to rural areas has in the last ten years began to rival the number of those moving to more "traditional" urban settings (for an extensive treatment of this see New Faces in New Places: The Changing Geography of American Immigration). Meanwhile, however, most of our immigration policy decision are dictated by the needs/challenges of large urban areas.

In the summer, at the beginning of my sabbatical, I traveled to the Yakima Valley region in Western Washington, where the labor needs of a huge and growing agricultural industry have resulted in large migrations to the area (the make up of some of the communities along the valley run from 20-90% Hispanic).

My work has also focused on the impact of the May 2008 immigration raid in the town of Postville, Iowa, where I have both served as part of the response team immediately following the raid, and sought to understand individual stories and the larger implications of both immigration in general and the raid in particular.

This month, January 2010, I will be focusing on the small community of Indiantown, Florida. When I first came to the United States in 1986, I came to the neighboring community of Jupiter, Florida. Quickly, I became aware of the very large community of people from Guatemala that had come and settled in Indiantown. Many of them came during the height of the civil war conflict in Guatemala, escaping violence and historical exploitation because of their indigenous background. The community has since grown and established in this town. I will try to post regularly my experiences and reflections on my time here.

Teh story of the town and its history are explored in detail in the book Maya in Exile by Allan Burns.

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