Between Two Nations: The Political Predicament of Latinos in New York City

By Michael Jones-Correa | Go to book overview

7
The Politics of In-between: Avoiding Irreconcilable Demands, Keeping Loyalties

Latin American immigrant politics operates under constraints. Some of those constraints are external: to count as an actor in U.S. politics, one must become a U.S. citizen. Becoming a U.S. citizen means, for many immigrants, the loss of citizenship in their country of origin. Understandably, it matters to many immigrants that they are asked to repudiate their country of birth when they naturalize as citizens in another country, and this demand contributes to their indecisiveness about U.S. citizenship. It isn't that they are particularly attached to the formal politics of their country of origin, but rather that they do not wish to lose their identification and connection with their home country. Much of the political life of Latin American immigrants in Queens is a matter, then, of finding a balance between two mutually exclusive polities. The result is a politics in which they have a certain autonomy of action without making any irrevocable choices.

The commonly held belief is that low participation here must mean participation in the country of origin, but, as I show in this chapter, this is not the case for Latin American immigrants in the United States. Latino immigrants are likely to stay away from formal politics in both the country of origin and the United States, behavior that is consistent with an overall policy of avoiding partisanship and controversy -- immigrants try not to pick sides. Instead, Latin American immigrants use the space opened by public events to express multiple (and conflicting) identities, without being forced to make choices among them. Those moments when immigrants do move decisively into the public sphere draw from a Latin American repertoire, but only succeed if they coincide with the desire to avoid irreconcilable com-

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