Immigration Workshop

Discussant: Chiara Galli, Department of Comparative Human Development University of Chicago


Despite the established presence of Indigenous immigrants in the U.S., only recently has there been concerted efforts to examine and understand their incorporation experiences, particularly the unique challenges surrounding the maintenance of their Indigenous cultural practices. Even less is known about their children’s experiences which, given the racial landscape in the U.S, may be subsumed under the Mexican/Latina/o ethno-racial category. Among the children of Indigenous Oaxacan immigrants, many confront discriminatory interactions from school peers of Mexican descent, specifically derogatory comments about being from Oaxaca (Barillas-Chon 2010). Understanding how children of Indigenous Oaxacan immigrants benefit from developing and retaining Indigenous cultural practices is critical to expanding our understanding of contemporary processes by which Indigenous communities and their cultures persist despite tensions associated with migration and incorporation into a U.S. racial landscape. Drawing on five years of ethnography as well as platicas and interviews with four Oaxacan immigrant high school students, I find that students practice three traditional Oaxacan cultural elements dance, language, and music which nourish a strong sense of belonging grounded in their ancestral roots to Oaxaca. In exploring the cultural elements Indigenous Oaxacan immigrant youth practice, I shed light on the heterogeneity of Latinx migration and challenge the erasure of Indigenous communities. I contend that Indigenous Oaxacan immigrant students’ engagement with and maintenance of traditional Oaxacan cultural elements represents more than a strong ethnic identity as honoring and rejoicing in their Indigenous and ancestral Oaxacan roots challenges colonialist logics which continue to oppress Indigenous communities and reproduce a racial anti-Indian hatred that imperil the future prospects of Indigenous youth. 


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