Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Latino Heartland

Latino Heartland: Of Borders and Belonging in the Midwest

Sujey Vega
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Latino Heartland
    Book Description:

    National immigration debates have thrust both opponents of immigration and immigrant rights supporters into the news. But what happens once the rallies end and the banners come down? What is daily life like for Latinos who have been presented nationally as "terrorists, drug smugglers, alien gangs, and violent criminals"?Latino Heartlandoffers an ethnography of the Latino and non-Latino residents of a small Indiana town, showing how national debate pitted neighbor against neighbor-and the strategies some used to combat such animosity. It conveys the lived impact of divisive political rhetoric on immigration and how race, gender, class, and ethnicity inform community belonging in the twenty-first century.

    Latino Heartlandilluminates how community membership was determined yet simultaneously re-made by those struggling to widen the scope of who was imagined as a legitimate resident citizen of this Midwestern space. The volume draws on interviews with Latinos-both new immigrants and long-standing U.S. citizens-and whites, as well as African Americans, to provide a sense of the racial dynamics in play as immigrants asserted their right to belong to the community. Latino Hoosiers asserted a right to redefine what belonging meant within their homes, at their spaces of worship, and in the public eye. Through daily acts of ethnic belonging, Spanish-speaking residents navigated their own sense of community that did not require that they abandon their difference just to be accepted.

    InLatino Heartland, Sujey Vega addresses the politics of immigration, showing us how increasingly diverse towns can work toward embracing their complexity.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-7533-7
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE: Pioneering Ownership of Greater Lafayette
    (pp. ix-xxvi)
  4. Introduction: Bienvenidos a Hoosierlandia: Asserting Ethnic Belonging at the “Crossroads of America”
    (pp. 1-20)

    In April 2006 an estimated 20,000 immigration rights supporters marched onto the streets of Indianapolis.¹ Sung to the melody of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” the “Himno al Inmigrante” [Hymn for the Immigrant] elicited boisterous cries from thousands who traveled, some for hours, to chant, sing, and collectively voice opposition to the national debate against undocumented immigrants.² Calling for a return to human brotherhood, marchers pleaded for an imagined community that was inclusive and flexible. Demonstrators wanted to create awareness of a broken immigration system that gave many no other choice but to enter the United States “illegally”—this action was...

  5. 1 Recuerdos de Lafayette: The Making and Forgetting of the Past in Central Indiana
    (pp. 21-60)

    Though it was dark and cold outside St. Boniface Catholic Church, the warmth and enthusiasm of Latino parishioners illuminated the sanctuary space with pre-dawn festivities to Our Lady of Guadalupe. At 3:00 a.m. on December 12, 2006 the Spanish choir began the events with Las Mañanitas.¹ After a fewalabanzas, or traditional hymns, a Norteño band joined in with its accordion, drums, and unique sounds that melded secular music with faithful veneration. By 5:00 a.m., an Indianapolis mariachi band trumpeted in the mass to a sanctuary space at maximum capacity. At the altar, brown paper mounds, cacti, rocks, and flowers...

  6. 2 Kneading Home: Creating Community While Navigating Borders
    (pp. 61-98)

    Residents of central Indiana were accustomed to chilly December evenings that marked the inevitable arrival of winter. Gray, dank weather patterns often limited open-air evening events. December 12, however, was different. As described previously, on this day Lafayette’s Latino Catholics were up before sunrise to celebrate energetically the Virgin of Guadalupe. But, honoring the Virgin of the Americas also included an evening outdoor component. Every 12th of December around dusk, Guadalupanos in Lafayette gathered once more to pray the rosary in an outdoor procession. Theperegrinos, or pilgrims, eventually arrived at the church, where their efforts culminated in a reenactment...

  7. 3 Written Otherings: Policing Community at the “Crossroads of America”
    (pp. 99-134)

    In 2006, political attacks targeted undocumented immigrants and marked Latinos as worthy of suspicion. The pain, the fear of being positioned as an internal enemy, hovered over undocumented families. Even within the walls of their own homes, undocumented immigrants faced anxieties about their situation daily. Veronica and Efraín had committed six years to living in central Indiana, but they still could not escape the anxieties of possible deportation and the fears of relinquishing all that they had built. Both worked double shifts at their employment, they’d recently purchased a home, and both held leadership roles in the only Spanish-speaking Mormon...

  8. 4 Clashes at the Crossroads: The Impact of Microaggressions and Other Otherings in Daily Life
    (pp. 135-172)

    On any given weekend, Wal-Mart’s automatic doors seemed to welcome customers of various socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. Latino and non-Latino residents often co-existed while searching for alluring deals that promised American capitalism in that ostentatious bright blue packaging. Indeed, residents of central Indiana exemplified Wal-Mart’s ideals to provide “customers of various ethnicities and cultures access to merchandise related to their cultures.”¹ Whether reaching for thetomatillos[small green husk-covered produce used insalsas] or tomatoes, Lafayette residents stocked their carts, waited in line, and traversed the expansive parking lot among one another. During interviews conducted in 2006, Wal-Mart was repeatedly...

  9. 5 “United We Are Stronger”: Clarifying Everyday Encounters with Belonging
    (pp. 173-216)

    Reading the letters to the editor, hearing about work harassment, and sitting across from participants who held such negative feelings toward undocumented immigrants was at times infuriating. As a child of once-undocumented immigrants myself, I felt the sting of ignorance personally. After some interviews, I was enveloped by the foulness that lingered from engaging with the realities of contemporary intolerance. As a researcher I needed to collect these narratives; as an individual I absorbed the negativity like a sponge and felt deeply wounded every time I heard of, read of, or witnessed the hostility in Lafayette. This pain and disappointment...

  10. Conclusion: The Politics of Belonging Wages On: How State-Based Legislation Affects Community in Indiana
    (pp. 217-226)

    The narratives in this book have illustrated the impact of immigration politics on a town and how race, gender, class, and ethnicity determined one’s right to community. All residents of Lafayette took part in religious, ethnic, and familial communities of their own, but there was a collective sense of belonging to this particular midwestern city. Interacting at multiple moments and in multiple spaces, the residents of Lafayette all contributed to the totality of living and surviving in this shared meaningful place. Though Latinos exhibited ethnic difference, they still belonged to this community even if they were not always accepted.


  11. NOTES
    (pp. 227-240)
    (pp. 241-258)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 259-262)
    (pp. 263-263)