Friday, February 23, 2007

Latino Pittsburgh

The Latino population in Pittsburgh is growing. The Post-Gazette reports that there are considerable class tensions. My time spent researching immigrant communities in Miami, Florida informs skepticism about lumping people from different countries into one ethnic group. That local immigrant politics divide along lines of class is hardly shocking:

Cultural organizations such as the Latin American Cultural Union and the Pittsburgh Venezuelan Association typically don't include working-class Latinos, said Leonardo Baloa, who helped form the Pittsburgh Venezuelan Association in 2003.

"These associations are formed out of a desire to be with people with similar cultural standards or morals, who laugh and speak and dance like you," he said. "But they are made up mostly of professionals. It is rare to see members who are struggling."

I'm aware that the kind of connectivity I espouse would enfranchise the relatively wealthy members of the Latin American Cultural Union and the Pittsburgh Venezuelan Association. In this sense, the rich get richer. What about the underclass of documented and undocumented workers?

Unskilled labor is less likely to relocate and more likely to put down roots, whereas professional Latinos comprise the more itinerant class. If they feel marginalized in the Pittsburgh community, they have the resources to move to another place more tolerant. Unskilled and low-wage labor will establish a more lasting presence in the Pittsburgh region and set up the migration-chain.

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