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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: David Joseph Piacenti
Doctor of Philosophy
Title: The Ethnic Identity of Returning Immigrants to a Pueblo in Yucatán
Dr. Paul Ciccantell, Chair
Dr. Doug Davidson
Dr. Greg Howard
Dr. Sarah Hill
Date: Friday, September 11, 2009 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
2526 Sangren Hall
This study seeks to understand: 1) motivations for leaving and, if applicable, returning to Madrina (pseudonym) Yucatán, México, from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and/or San Francisco, California; 2) how social conditions in San Francisco compare to Kalamazoo and how this might affect ethnic identity; 3) the impact of immigration on the immigrant’s ethnic identity; and 4) immigrant perception of change in ethnic identity of family and Madrina. The study employs 52 semi-structured interviews of returned and non-returned Yucatec-Mayan immigrants, as well as an ethnographic description of Kalamazoo, San Francisco, and Madrina. Findings suggest that the Yucatec-Mayan immigrants use a family-centered, value-rational decision making process in leaving and returning to Madrina, and the ethnic identity of Yucatec-Mayans is still resistant to “Mexicanizing,” and “transnationalizing,” as 80% of the sample still claim “Yucatec-Mayan” as their ethnic identity. Immigrants who return from racialized, urban environments return with “U.S. cultural remittances,” which are urbanizing the town. Madrina’s immigrants and citizenry attempt to incorporate the perceived positives of immigration into Yucatec-Mayan lifeways, while discouraging unfavorably viewed behaviors from the U.S. The incorporation of outside lifeways into “being Yucatec-Mayan” operates to temporarily maintain local, traditional lifeways and rituals. San Francisco reflects a more intensely racialized, segregated environment, which is represented by the returned cholo, whose “urban gangbanger” mentality confronts the traditional, rural ethnic identity. San Francisco also affects the overall perception of immigration and desire for permanent U.S. residence. Of the San Francisco cohort, 42% say immigration is “positive overall.” Conversely, 62% of the Kalamazoo cohort says that immigration is “positive overall.” Only 29% of the San Francisco cohort desire permanent residence in the U.S. while 54% of the Kalamazoo cohort desire permanent U.S. residence. Therefore, the suburban context of Kalamazoo may increase desire for permanent U.S residence. This is profound, as permanent U.S residence would indicate a qualitatively stronger change in ethnic identity.