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During the 1990s remittances became the second-largest source of foreign exchange for many Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Mexico, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba.1 In 2009 the InterAmerican Development Bank (IADB 2010) estimated that Latin American and Caribbean immigrants worldwide dispatched US$58.8 billion to their nations of origin. Most adult Hispanics regularly send migradólares (as they are often dubbed in Mexico) to family members back home (Bendixen and Associates 2001; DeSipio 2002; Orozco et al. 2005). Although the U.S. recession and the global economic crisis have slowed the growth of remittances, they continue to play a key role in Latin America and the Caribbean. In smaller economies such as Haiti, Jamaica, Guyana, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, remittances rival revenues from agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism (World Bank 2008). In most cases, private transfers of money exceed direct foreign investment and development aid from wealthier to poorer countries. Everywhere, remittances help sustain local economies, particularly households with few assets. Remittances are one of the strongest transnational economic links between sending and receiving communities (Basch, Glick Schiller, and Szanton Blanc 1994; Goldring 2003; Guarnizo 2003; Levitt and Glick Schiller 2004; Levitt and Nyberg-Sørensen 2004; Robert Smith 2006; Vertovec 2009). These massive transfers of resources are embedded in far-flung webs of solidarity and reciprocity between relatives across nations. Contrary to other monetary transfers, remittances reach the poorer sectors of the population , especially helping women, children, and the elderly meet subsistence Transnational Crossroads The Circulation of People and Money in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic 10 transnational crossroads 210 needs, such as food, shelter, clothing, and health care. Aside from being spent on necessities, remittances are used to settle debts, finance education , save, purchase property, obtain consumer goods, cover the costs of emergencies, and pay for professional services, thus generating additional employment and income (Durand, Parrado, and Massey 1996). Hence, remittances are a classic form of transnationalism from below, insofar as they represent grassroots initiatives by the poor (see chapter 1). As Alejandro Portes (1996: 1) has quipped, transnational migrant communities are “labor ’s analog to the multinational corporation.” One of the central questions in the study of contemporary migrants is how frequently they participate in transnational activities such as sending money home, especially beyond the first generation (see Levitt and Waters 2002; and Waldinger 2007). As a rule, foreign-born persons remit more than those born in the United States (de la Garza and Lowell 2002; Itzigsohn 2006). Nonetheless, second- and third-generation immigrants also retain economic, social, and political attachments to their ancestral homelands (see Fouron and Glick Schiller 2001; Robert Smith 2006; and Toro-Morn and Alicea 2003). For instance, many Latinos in the United States visit their places of origin, plan to return to live there, and attend cultural events related to their home countries (DeSipio and Pantoja 2004; Portes, Escobar, and Arana 2009). The issue of dual allegiance within transnational communities is not merely academic but has broader practical implications. How immigrants shed or cling to their national and ethnic identities while becoming full-fledged citizens in the receiving society has long concerned scholars and policymakers, as illustrated by Randolph Bourne’s call in 1916 for a cosmopolitan “trans-national America.” These issues are particularly relevant for Puerto Rico, a primary source of emigrants to the United States since World War II, a major destination for return migrants and their descendants, and more recently a recipient of immigrants from other countries. In 2009 the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 53.4 percent of all persons of Puerto Rican birth or origin lived in the United States. The 4.4 million people of Puerto Rican descent residing stateside represent the second-largest number of U.S. Latinos, after Mexicans, and the largest proportion relative to the sending population. At the same time, 8.1 percent of the island’s population was born abroad, especially in the United States, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba (U.S. Census Bureau 2010). As the Cuban American anthropologist Samuel Martínez (2003: 147) transnational crossroads 211 has argued, Puerto Rico has become a transnational migrant crossroads, “the scene of multiple, cross-cutting, back-and-forth geographic displacements of people of different national origins.” Similarly, the Dominican Republic has sent hundreds of thousands of migrants to the United States and Puerto Rico, while receiving hundreds of thousands of Haitians. One result of this fluid demographic situation is the massive circulation of people and...


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