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«Colombian Immigrant Children in the United States: Representations of Food and the Process of Creolization by María Claudia Duque-Páramo A ...»

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Colombian Immigrant Children in the United States: Representations of Food and the

Process of Creolization

by

María Claudia Duque-Páramo

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment

of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

Department of Anthropology

College of Arts and Sciences

University of South Florida

Major Professor: Michael V. Angrosino, Ph.D.

Mary E. Evans, Ph.D.

Mario Hernandez, Ph.D.

David A. Himmelgreen, Ph.D.

Linda M. Whiteford, Ph.D.

Date of Approval:

November 12, 2004 Keywords: Immigrant children, acculturation, food changes, qualitative research with children, children’s agency, ethical issues with children © Copyright 2004, María Claudia Duque-Páramo A las niñas y niños inmigrantes que en medio de la alegría por lo novedoso y el dolor de alejarse de seres amados, construyen nuevas identidades y nuevos mundos.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This dissertation was possible thanks to many people. First, I want to thank the girls and boys who participated in the research study. At the same time they shared their knowledge, experiences and cherished memories with generosity and cooperative spirit, they engaged with enthusiasm in the research activities. I also thank their parents, particularly their mothers for their trust and cooperation and for providing the conditions for conducting the interviews in privacy. I know is not always easy for a mother to leave her child with a recently met adult.

I thank the members of my dissertation committee Mary E. Evans, Mario Hernandez, David Himmelgreen, and Linda M. Whiteford for their invaluable contributions along the process of writing the dissertation. Particularly, David contributed with valuable bibliography and guidance that help me to develop and redirect the research.

A very special thank you goes to the Chair of my committee, Michael V. Angrosino, for his inspiration, confidence, and constant guidance and support. What I have learned having him as my professor is the most valuable good from my doctoral studies. Indeed, with his insightful and dedicate work as editor, he greatly contributed to improve this dissertation.

I thank specially my friend Angela Gómez for her dedicated and generous work as editor. Angela also gave me support, encouragement and was a delicate company in completing my dissertation.

A very special thank you goes to Cecilia Muñoz who generously shared with me her valuable knowledge and experience with research and psychoanalysis involving children, and provided me with her constant support and encouragement.

I also thank María Esther Carrillo the director of the Taller Intercultural Hispano Americano, and the board members and staff of the Center for Family Health in Tampa.

I thank The Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of South Florida for partially funding my research.

I also thank Pamela Swank, Ken McCall, Nancy Romero Daza, Edward J. Ford, and Leah Phillips who at different moments also helped me as editors.

Elizabeth Bird gave me her advice and provided me with a valuable bibliography for analyzing visual data; Lori Collins helped with the map of participants locations; and Debbie Roberson was a responsive helper on naming English foods that I could not find in dictionaries. Thank you to all of them. I also thank Carol Bryant and Paul Monaghan who have given me their constant support and confidence. Carol’s advice was key in the process of clarifying some methodological issues.

My parents Graciela and Mario have my greatest love and gratitude. Much of what I am comes from them and what I have done is always related to the ir love, support, and company.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

–  –  –

Table 1. Studies Conducted with Children Table 2.

Recommendations for Using Research Techniques with Children 50 Table 3. Categories and Subcategories Table 4. People Living with the Child Table 5. Age, Gender, and Residence in Colombia Table 6. Acculturation and Ethnic Identity Table 7. Food in the US Table 8. Continuities and Changes of Food Table 9. Recalled Foods in Colombia Table 10. Feelings and Concepts Table 11. Participants’ Agency Table 12. Interactions and Influenc es Table 13. The Group Sessions Table 14. Summary of Main Trends

iv LIST OF FIGURES

Fig. 1. Lizzie explains to Valentina that steak is a meat Fig. 2. Bryan shows “The Candy of Freedom” he made Fig. 3. Asprilla shows his drawing with Colombian foods Fig. 4. Juanes cooking during group 1 Fig. 5. Valentina shows the “Cute Little Puppy” she made Fig. 6. Angela playing the customer’s role Fig. 7. Usher shows his drawing about Colombia and Colombian foods 141 Fig. 8. Ron Shows “The Flying Pig” he made 153 Fig. 9. Rocky shows the cake with strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla he made 157 Fig. 10. Series of photos representing group 1 196 Fig. 11. Series of photos representing group 2 201 Fig. 12 Series of photos representing group 3 210 Fig. 13. Fig. 13. Series of photos representing foods selected by Halley 327 Fig. 14. Series of photos representing foods selected by Lizzie Fig. 15. Series of photos representing foods selected by Bryan Fig. 16. Series of photos representing foods selected by Asprilla Fig. 17. Series of photos representing foods selected by Juanes Fig. 18. Series of photos representing foods selected by Valentina Fig. 19. Series of photos representing foods selected by Angela Fig. 20. Series of photos representing foods selected by Luigi Fig. 21. Series of photos representing foods selected by Usher Fig. 22. Series of photos representing foods selected by Ron Fig. 23. Series of photos representing foods selected by Elisa Fig. 24. Series of photos representing foods selected by Andrea Fig. 25. Series of photos representing foods selected by Erika

–  –  –





The purpose of this dissertation research is to study the experience of adjustment of Colombian immigrant children to living in the US. In order to understand the changes they have experienced as immigrants, the research focuses on the ways in which they talk about the food they eat here and on the foods they ate in Colombia. Because of the symbolic importance of food in the construction of ethnic and personal identities, a study of how the children talk about food illuminates the process of blending elements from the immigrant culture with those of the US.

Based on the symbolic interactionism approach to culture, this study assumes that participants’ representations of foods are shaped by their own experiences through interactions with others. Representations of food result from the interactions between participants and the researcher in the research settings.

With a participatory approach, data were collected through semi- structured interviews conducted with twelve girls and eight boys, and three group sessions with three girls and eight boys. Participants were reached at the Taller Intercultural Hispano Americano and through their parents at the Center for Family Health. Data were analyzed

–  –  –

interviews and the group sessions into narratives.

Analysis of the data shows that participants’ changes and adjustment are characterized by an emerging process of creolization, a concept proposed by Foner (1997) to explain patterns of acculturation of immigrant families. Creolization is the central idea articulating and providing meaning to participants’ representations of food changes. Colombian immigrant children living in the US are agents actively blending elements from their immigrant culture with elements they encounter in the US context from which new food patterns reflecting their changing circumstances are emerging.

Likewise, Tampa in particular and Florida in general provide a context that facilitates and promotes such blending of meanings both in private spaces such as home and in public ones such as restaurants, due to the presence of long-established Spanish-speaking communities of varying degrees of acculturation.

–  –  –

Children of immigrants, widely diverse in terms of social class, ethnicity, educational level, and nationalities (Hernandez and Darke 1999), represent the fastest growing group of children in the United States y (Suárez-Orozco and Suárez-Orozco 2001). Scholars agree about the relevance of studying and understanding the cultural changes contemporary immigrant children and their families are facing as they transition from the immigrant culture to their new lives in the United States (Foner 1997;

Hernandez 1999a; Portes and Rumbaut 2001; Rumbaut and Portes 2001; Suárez-Orozco and Suárez-Orozco 2001). Since pan-ethnic categories, such as Latino or Hispanic, conceal important variations by country of origin, scholars from different perspectives are beginning to recommend nationality-oriented studies (Flores et al 2002; Oropesa and Landale 1997). Little is known, however, about subjective aspects of children’s experiences in the acculturation process (Hernandez and Charney 1998; Portes 1994;

Rumbaut 1994; Zhou 1997) or about “their subjective experiences as immigrant children, their abilities to cope and adapt, their ability to grow, and the impact that immigration has in their life” (García Coll and Magnuson 1997:94). Likewise, there are no studies that focus on children’s own perspective and their agency as actors in the process of adjustment and acculturation in the US.

Food is a symbol where expressed emotions, identities, traditions, cultural values, norms, political forces and economic conditions are focused (Lupton 1996; Harbottle 2000). Among human populations food is also related to the processes of individual socialization and to the transmission of culture from generation to generation (Beardsworth and Keil 1997: 54). Likewise, food is a symbol by which social changes and acculturative processes are represented. Though studies focused on the food changes 1 of migrants have been conducted with several populations (Himmelgreen 2004; Jerome 1980; Lee Kang and Garey 2002), there are no studies dealing with immigrant children and how food symbolizes the changes they experience in the processes of adjustment and acculturation.

Children have been disregarded either as unreliable informants about or as passive participants in culture (Bucholtz 2002; Friedl 2002; Gottlieb 2000; Hardman 1973; 2001;

Hirschfeld 2002; Korbin and Zahorik 1985; Toren 1993). In anthropology children have existed on the margins and sidelines of the discipline (Schwartzman 2001:1). However, children are not passive receptors of acculturation and socialization processes; rather they are persons and active subjects constructing their cultural worlds while interacting with others (Gottlieb 2000, 2002; Hardman 1973, 2001; Hirschfeld 2002; Toren 1993, 1999, 2001, 2002a, 2002b).

This dissertation research focuses on how Colombian immigrant children adjust to living in the US. The ways in which the participants in the study talk about food are used as a mean to understand the changes they have experienced. Reflecting the symbolic use of food, this study provides understandings on how the process of blending elements from the immigrant culture with those encountered within the US context is taking place among Colombian immigrant children. Understanding immigrant children’s own experiences and perspectives represented by their food preferences sheds light on the changes and adjustments associated with their experience as immigrants. At the same time, it is useful to provide ideas and suggestions for the design of culturally appropriate nutritional education programs for Colombian and other Latino immigrant children and their families.

This study is based on the symbolic interactionism approach to the study of culture and assumes that the children’s representations result from the interactions between participants and the researcher in the research settings. Participants’ representations are shaped by their own experiences through interactions with others. Likewise, the researcher’s theoretical and methodological choices, as well as the representations of participants’ accounts and experiences, are also shaped by my own personal and professional experiences.

2

The study’s research questions were:

- How do Colombian immigrant children adjust to life in the United States?

- How does food symbolize the changes that they have experienced?

These main questions were subdivided:

1. How do participants represent the food they eat in the US: in restaurants; on weekdays ; on weekends; on holidays?

2. What changes and differences do they identify between the food they ate in Colombia and the food they eat in the US?

3. What concepts, feelings and values are associated to the food they eat?

4. What role does immigrant culture, and participants’ interactions with significant others, such as their families, teachers, peers and media, play in shaping their foods representations?

5. To what degree are participants active agents in their process of food acculturation?

6. How do participants express their agency?

Chapter Two discusses the literature reviewed for this study; it is divided into five sections. The first section focuses on migrant studies in anthropology which includes urban migration, migration and development, and theoretical approaches to migration in anthropology. In addition to the anthropological literature, the second section focuses on reviewing the literature on assimilation and acculturation of immigrant children and their families. The third section focuses on creolization and discusses the main elements defining the creolized acculturation. The fourth section focuses on why the child is an important subject for anthropological research. Finally, the fifth section discusses some relevant sociocultural studies of food, the symbolic dimensions of food, and studies on food, immigration, and acculturation.



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