Academic journal article Southern Cultures

New roots/Nuevas Raices: Stories from Carolina del Norte

Academic journal article Southern Cultures

New roots/Nuevas Raices: Stories from Carolina del Norte

Article excerpt

Although there is a longer history of Latino migration to the United States, in recent decades, individuals from across Central and South America and the Caribbean have been putting down new roots in the U. S. South at a particularly high rate, bringing about significant social, cultural, political, and economic change. Home to one of the fastest growing Latino populations in the country, North Carolina has experienced a dramatic demographic shift as the Latino population has grown from less than half of 1 percent to 8.4 percent in the past three decades. The state's 800,000 Latinos bring a diverse array of backgrounds, experiences, struggles, triumphs, and stories about migration, settlement, and integration from across Latin America to the American South. These newcomers include migrants and second-generation youth, farm workers, dream activists, college students, teachers, business owners, public figures, and professionals, and their stories reveal that there is truly no one migration narrative or version of what it means to be Latino/a in North Carolina in the twenty-first century. (1)

Since 2006, the New Roots Latino Oral History Initiative at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has documented these migrant stories and is one of the largest repositories of interviews related to new Latino migrant destinations in the South; the repository holds more than 160 recorded interviews and transcripts, in both English and Spanish, relating to the immigration and settlement of Latinos in North Carolina. Although this work captures only a fraction of Latino lives in the state, it reflects a great diversity of experiences, from the life-changing to the mundane: countries of origin, age at migration, languages spoken, foodways, and cultural practices. These stories take us from deep suffering to acts of courage and resilience, and from discrimination to acceptance in a new home. New Roots oral histories shed light on the complex identities and experiences of new immigrants, and they help contextualize the region's transforming social, economic, political, and cultural landscape in a time of significant immigration and educational reform. (2)

Ed. Note: Interviews that are presented first in Spanish were conducted in Spanish, and interviews presented first in English were conducted in English. Transcribed segments have been condensed and edited for publication. Audio and full transcriptions available at


Pedro J. Carreno was born in La Uvita, located in the Andean mountains in Boyaca, Colombia. He grew up on a farm and migrated to Bogota for more opportunities at age seventeen. He married and had a child, and his family decided to venture out for new horizons and moved to New York. After twenty years in Long Island, his family moved to North Carolina, where his daughter Michelle grew up. Food plays an important role in his family, and he connects dishes from his hometown and what he grew on his parents' farm to family traditions, identity, and overall balance and health in life.

Mi madre es la que hacia toda las cosas en la casa. Mi padre era un farmer. El trabajaba en una granja y todo el dia se la pasaba trabajando. Ella era la que estaba en la casa cuidandonos, ella era la que se encargaba de hacer el almuerzo, ella era la que se encargaba de llevarnos a la escuela. Se encargaba de todas esas cosas. Y pues este es el rol que mas o menos la mayoria de las madres latinas tienen.

Siempre estabamos con ella en la cocina y veia mientras ella preparaba la comida. Entonces alli uno se da cuenta que ingredientes se usaban, como los usaban, cuanto lo cocinaban, todo eso. Cuando habian reuniones familiares, como por ejemplo si habia una cosecha, mi abuelo recogia su cosecha y en esas reuniones habia muchisima gente y se conjugaba muchos estilos de cocinar. Cuando habia abundancia se comia bastante y cuando no, no. …

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