This Oral History Project has been one of the most rewarding projects I have done at Dartmouth. I had the opportunity and privilege to interview Joselina Hijar and listening to her story was great. I learned so much about migration as a holistic process that entails so many decisions and sacrifices. I appreciate the fact that she was willing to share many personal stories in order for me to effectively transmit her migration to the United States. One of the things that made this project so rewarding was that at the end, there is a tangible, accessible outcome to the interview and writing process.
The project is also rewarding because I think it contributes to the larger narrative and discourse of Latinos in the United States. Joselina’s story is an example of how migration from central and South America is not all the same. Migration experience differs based on country of origin and social and legal reception, U.S. involvement and a migrant’s individual beliefs and needs.
Joselina’s migration story is different from the stories portrayed in the ethnographies we read in class. But there were some themes that were similar and that we discussed in class:
The importance of social networks showed in Joselina’s oral history. Joselina has family in California, and at the time of her migration, she knew she could depend on them to establish her new life in the United States. Having established social networks in the receiving country helps determine where people will migrate. Joselina relied on her family in California for the first few years she was here. Although she doesn’t live in a cultural or linguistic enclave currently, she shows that they exist and that for many migrants who come from her county those networks are essential. They provide initial support before migration but they continue to provide services for migrants.
Maintaining ties with one’s culture can be difficult. Joselina’s story shows that migration as an individual (vs. migrating as a family or having to support a family in the home country) gave her more freedom to navigate her cultural connections. Joselina chose to live outside of the immigrant enclaves that tend to exists and this also gave her the opportunity to navigate which aspects of her culture she wanted to keep and those she wanted to change.
The hardest part of this project, for me, was making sure that I accurately portrayed Joselina’s story and made sure that her voice showed through in this oral history; despite the narrative being in the third person.