Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Transnationalism and Leisure: Mexican Temporary Migrants in the U.S

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Transnationalism and Leisure: Mexican Temporary Migrants in the U.S

Article excerpt


Immigrants constitute an integral part of the American landscape and their role in the cultural, political, and economic life of this country is likely to increase in the future. It is commonly acknowledged that immigration permits people to improve their lives while at the same time strengthening the economic and social fabric of the U.S. (Ley, 2003). There exists, however, another side to immigration that has been gaining increasing attention over more than a decade. As industries across the U.S. have in recent years been shifting to a mixed legal and illegal foreign work force, illegal immigration to the U.S. has expanded significantly. Workers now routinely travel from Mexico and other regions of the world in search of jobs and income they can transfer to their home countries (Durand & Masssey, 2001; Lindstrom, 1996; Marcelli & Cornelius, 2001; Massey & Parrado, 1994; Roberts, Frank, & Lozano-Ascencio, 1999). These temporary migrants often present a challenge for American communities unaccustomed to dealing with the cultural, social, and economic changes brought by the increasing numbers of newcomers (Kammer, 2003). As indicated by the 2000 U.S. Census, more than nine million foreigners were admitted as legal immigrants to the U.S. between 1991 and 2000 (Martin & Midgeley, 2003). In 2000-2001 alone, 1,064,318 immigrants arrived to the U.S. legally and an estimated 350,000500,000 illegally. The majority of them (51%) came from Latin America and approximately 30% from Asia. The recent projections from the U.S. Census Bureau anticipate a net addition of 820,000 immigrants a year until 2050, including 350,000 Hispanics (Martin & Midgeley, 2003).

Over the last two decades, a significant volume of research on the issues of ethnic and racial minorities has developed in the field of leisure studies (e.g. Allison & Geiger, 1993; Carr & Williams, 1993; Floyd & Gramann, 1993, 1995; Washburne, 1978). Despite the increase in number and sophistication of studies in this area, there remains certain epistemological and methodological problems. Studies have often relied on people's ascribed racial or ethnic backgrounds, assumed homogeneity of ethnic populations, and rarely provided in-depth descriptions of their participants' backgrounds, settlement history, ties maintained with their country of origin, and reasons for migration. Moreover, while leisure researchers have begun to acknowledge the distinctions between first and second generation and more or less assimilated ethnics (see Carr & Williams, 1993; Chavez, 1991; Floyd & Gramann, 1993, 1995), they have largely failed to appreciate the existence of other profound variations within immigrant communities. For instance, while the majority of existing studies have focused on permanent immigrants, they have failed to investigate people who migrate to the U.S. only for a limited period of time and thus are likely to be characterized by profoundly different family structures, spending patterns, lifestyles, and leisure behavior.

Thus, the goal of this study is to provide an in-depth analysis of the effects of transnational status on leisure behavior of temporary migrants from Mexico. Mexicans have been chosen as the participants in this study for two reasons. First, Mexican migrants constitute the largest migratory workforce temporarily residing in the U.S. (Martin & Midgeley, 2003). Second, due to the strong ties that they maintain with their country of origin, they constitute an ideal population on which the effects of transnationalism on leisure behavior can be investigated.

Theoretical Framework

The great majority of research on ethnicity and migration conducted in the fields of geography, sociology, and ethnic/migration studies up to the mid 1990s focused on immigrants and assumed that after settlement they followed a unidirectional path of assimilation. In the early to mid 1990s, however, the main focus of theoretical and empirical research shifted and studies began to acknowledge the existence of different sub-groups within the migrant population (Pries, 2001). …

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