- Latino Immigrants and the Transformation of the U.S. South
The dramatic demographic changes in the ethnoracial landscape of the southern United States in the last two decades sparked both by direct immigration from various sending countries and by internal migration, particularly those among the Latino newcomers who previously resided in traditional Hispanic enclaves such as Los Angeles or Chicago, have led to a burgeoning new scholarship assessing these dynamics. As such, Mary Odem and Elaine Lacy's edited volume, Latino Immigrants and the Transformation of the U.S. South, is part of a small flurry of recent works on the subject including the similarly titled collection edited by Heather Smith and Owen Furuseth, Latinos in the New South (2006) as well as José Maria Montero's monograph, Latinos and the U.S. South (2008). Despite its title, however, Odem and Lacy's volume does not actually cover the entirety of the region. Indeed, the collection excludes discussion of the very two Southern states where Latinos are the most highly concentrated—Texas and Florida. Their rationale was to focus the study on the newest immigration destinations in the South and these two states each have much more long-standing and intricate histories of Latino settlement. Yet, during the last twenty years, Latino migrants, like their counterparts who end up in the other Southern states, have continued to stream into Texas and Florida as well, sometimes relocating to areas of those states that are also new destinations for this population. Nonetheless, if the newer Latino communities in Texas and Florida are left out, on the flip side, the book does add breadth to the literature by treating settlements in other parts of the South that have never been systematically studied, such as Lacy's look at Mexican migration to South Carolina in Chapter 1 and Angela Stuesse's essay examining Hispanic poultry workers in Mississippi, the subject of Chapter 6.
Latino Immigrants and the Transformation of the U.S. South derives from a set of conference papers delivered at a gathering in Atlanta in 2004 that focused on Mexican immigration to the region and purposively included scholars from both Mexico and the United States to share their perspectives. This unique binational collaboration revises and expands the original conference proceedings by looking at other populations besides the Mexican influx. Still, the collection is heavily weighted toward the Mexican experience, with the first four out of a total of nine chapters focused on various facets of this [End Page 180] particular ethnic group's adjustment. Overall, the multidisciplinary essays address several key themes in the process of sociocultural, spatial, and economic adaptation including patterns of transnational connections, occupational incorporation, the establishment of cultural enclaves, the dynamics of shifting racial and ethnic identity structures, and the ways the newcomers have been received in their respective communities.
Although primarily at the low end of the employment spectrum, because of the variegated labor needs in the region, Latino settlement in what Raymond Mohl, the author of Chapter 4 on immigration to Alabama, has termed the nuevo New South is noteworthy in that it spans the rural–urban continuum. One of the strengths of this volume is its attention to the diversity of this geographic range. Readers learn that the newest Latino arrivals are putting down roots in densely populated metropolitan areas where they fill low-wage jobs such as cleaning, dish-washing, and janitorial services in restaurants, hotels, and office buildings but that they are also as likely to be found living in small towns near the sites of chicken farms and poultry-processing plants or in even more rural settings where increasingly Latinos are becoming the backbone of farm labor in Southern agricultural production.
One of the most fascinating chapters, a contribution that encompasses analysis of almost all of the book's overarching aims, is Víctor Zúñiga and Rubén Hernández-León's study...