LA PARADA: EXPLAINING IXIL DAY LABORERS IN VIRGINIA . ILLEGALITY, LOSS, HOPE AND COMMUNITY
Degree awarded: Ph.D. Anthropology. American University
ABSTRACTThis ethnographic study looks at the lived experiences of Guatemalan indigenous day laborers meeting at La Parada, an informal corner in Virginia. Seen as transient, de-spatialized workers, it is easy to forget that they are human beings participating in our communities. In an increasingly anti-immigrant environment, this study explores the social, cultural, and economic links they develop with the communities they interact simultaneously: their own Ixil-speaking day labor community; the transnational community they left behind in the highlands of Guatemala; the Spanish-speaking community in Virginia and the wider English-speaking community. A focal point of this dissertation is the power and violence of illegality on their lived experiences. Illegality not only marginalizes these day laborers, it significantly affects their social life. Unable to imagine a future in the United States, predominantly as a consequence of their real or presumed illegality, the increased levels of violence in the communities they left behind in the highlands of Guatemala, make a return unthinkable for the majority. These workers are stuck in the presence. I see their migration as an act of agency, an expression of hope in the context of violence, discrimination and poverty in their homeland. Migration however also entails loss and suffering. Despite the very difficult conditions and the social and economic violence they experience, day laborers find ways to resist their position in the neoliberal economic system.
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