Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mexican immigration in California and family ties

First generation of Mexican immigrants in Southern California. Internet download.

Family structure is an important aspect of ethnicity. For Mexicans, “family” means an extended, multi generational strong tie group of persons, who have specific social roles. Mexican and Chicanos are very family oriented. And those who moved to US tended to work and live in ethnically homogenous settings. Historically, male Mexican immigrants come first. Subsequently, relatives and friends follow the immigrants, completing the family units and eventually extended family and friendship networks forms in the following years.

They keep the family structure as they should have done in the rural areas of Mexico: the nuclear family, the secondary kin, and the fictive kinship. “Typically, the Chicano extended family also includes compadres, or fictive kin. As godparents (padrinos) of a child, compadres or coparents have a special link with the real parents of the child. Compadres tend to be close friends or relatives of the real parents, and the relationship of compadrazgo is expected to last a lifetime. ….Mexican Americans are believed to value familism more highly than Anglos and to know more relatives, see them more often.”(Keefe and Padilla, 1987)
The first generation of immigrants, less acculturated, less educated and lower in socioeconomic status, become barrio residents. For Keefe and Padilla it is impossible to say whether barrio residence reinforces one’s ethnic identity or whether those with loyalty to the ethnic group choose to live in the barrio. In our opinion, and just for the conversations held with those coming first, they establish wherever they have a contact, a friend or relative of a friend or any known person: a fictive kin who will help him offering any room, tent, garage, mobile home or even a garden storage. So, not necessarily the barrio is the first establishment.

To Keefe and Padilla statement (1987) that there is no indication that urbanism bears any significant relationship to extended familism, we opposedly state that this strong ties with real and fictitious family generates a fractal growth and modification of the urban morphology, and its first reason is to assist the immigrant/s in finding a location, usually precarious as the poor are likely to have relatives who are equally poor, with few resources to support visiting and exchange (Keefe and Padilla, 1987).
People who migrate logically stand to lose their primary family, but contact is maintained with relatives over distances. This does not end here, but a process of feedback is produced, a phenomena of transnational families influenced by the families living in USA. In fact, when the head of the household migrates, it is common for the rest of the family to expand the house, thanks to the remittances sent from the United States. Or most probably, due to wishes of well being, to invest in appliances. So, family ties must be viewed within the framework of the formation of transnational families. (see Alejandro Canales, 2002).

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