Anthropology Department

finalreport2002

Exposure and Vision: The Latino Youth Photography Project

Summer Ethnographic Field School
Department of Anthropology
Grand Valley State University
Final Report

March 5, 2002

by

Dr. Russell Rhoads
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Grand Valley State University

With Anthropology Research Assistants:
Courtney Grosso
Melissa Harrington
Emma Northup

 

PROJECT PERSONNEL

Project Sponsors:
Department of Anthropology, Grand Valley State University (GVSU)
Hispanic Center of Western Michigan (HCWM)

Project Directors:
Dr. Russell Rhoads, Professor of Anthropology, GVSU
Martha Gonzalez-Cortes, Executive Director, HCWM

Field Coordinator:
Carmela Zapata
Student Participants:

GVSU Students: Jeff Chivis, Laura Falstrom, Courtney Grosso, Melissa Harrington, Amanda Maki, Emma Northup, Joe Tort, and Margie Zylstra

High School Students: Maria Isabel Garcia (Union HS), Christina Gonzalez (Rogers HS), Juan Carlos Lopez (Adelante HS), Alejandra Rojas (Union HS), and Connie Guillen (Adelante HS)

 

Acknowledgments:

Grant Funding from the Dorothy Johnson Center for Philanthropy, Grand Valley State University, Staff of the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, Dr. Cindy Hull, Department of Anthropology, GVSU, Project Rehab's Yo Puedo Program, Adelante High School, the families of participating high school students, Lupe Lopez, and the Grand Rapids and Wyoming Latino communities for their cooperation

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION

            Exposure and Vision: The Latino Youth Photography Project was conducted by the anthropological, summer field school of Grand Valley State University (GVSU). Based on the an anthropology methods course (ANT 307), we designed the six-week project to teach anthropology students field techniques and lab methods on ethnographic research, applied to a service learning experience with a community partner.

            The project is a joint collaboration between the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan (HCWM) in Grand Rapids, the GVSU anthropology department and students, and Latino high school students who volunteered to participate in this project. Martha Gonzalez-Cortes (Executive Director of the Hispanic Center) and I directed the project. The main objective of the project for HCWM was to create both a permanent and a moving exhibit for the Hispanic Center, documenting the diversity, history and pride of the Latino community in Grand Rapids as portrayed through the eyes and vision of Latino youth.      GVSU students accompanied high school students throughout the community, conducted interviews and performed photographic content analysis. The students also conducted interviews, made observations, and helped the high school students create photography exhibits. The results reveal how the high school students informed by ethnographic context redefined self and ethnicity, and re-created a sense of community in both private and public.

            The project integrated a strong service learning component, designed to teach GVSU students how social science research is applied to collaboration with local partners and to community building. The idea is to promote community transformation in the process of developing cross-cultural understanding and awareness. This developed into an opportunity for the students to come together and work as cooperative teams with other students at the university along with community members including high school students from the Latino community in Grand Rapids.

            Service-learning can be an important part of a student's civic education, influencing such characteristics as political action skills, communication skills, critical thinking skills and tolerance. Footnote In planning the field school, we set six objectives: (1) to meet actual community needs, (2) to create collaborations between school and community, (3) to give students the opportunity to perform meaningful service to their communities and to society, (4) to engage in some form of reflection or study related to the service, (5) to give GVSU students an opportunity to document personal academic achievement and involvement through academic papers, presentations and workshops, and (6) to offer the high school students representing the Latino community an opportunity to take photographs of community life and express a vision of Latino youth in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

            Finally, in addition to photographic materials, we wanted to interview individuals and families to learn more about immigration, work, friendships, food, social groups, religion, festivals, and folklore. Ultimately, we would like to share the results of our research with the entire community through the photo exhibit, and other published works.

 

BACKGROUND

            Three years ago, we conducted the 1998 Summer Field School, working closely with the Hispanic Center and its former director, Richard Espinoza. The Hispanic Center was supportive of our project and very generous with their time and resources. GVSU students had the opportunity to present themselves in a professional manner through radio and newspaper interviews. Several students also participated in a community-wide program, Latino Voices, which was sponsored by the GVSU Latin American Studies Program and numerous other Latino/ Hispanic organizations in West Michigan during the Fall 1998 semester. Several other students presented their research and findings at the Central States Anthropological Society meetings in April 1999.

            Since 1998, the Hispanic Center has hired a new Executive Director, Martha Gonzalez-Cortes. From January to March 2001, Dr. Cindy Hull (Associate Professor of Anthropology, GVSU) and I held several conversations with Ms. Gonzalez-Cortes concerning a cooperative project. She desired incorporation of local Latino students into a photography project, centering on identity and culture. We were very excited about the prospect of local high school students and GVSU students working together on a project that would have a visual product: an exhibit at the original Hispanic Center in Grand Rapids. In our preliminary discussions, we agreed upon two general goals for the project: (1) that the project benefit both the Latino community and GVSU students; and (2) that there be a final product, a written report and a visual exhibit.

 

THE ANT 307 COURSE

      The major goal of the ANT 307 course is to offer an ethnographic field school in which students would learn anthropology within a social and cultural context. The several interrelated objectives designed to fulfill this first goal are:

Objective 1: To offer students training in qualitative methods in anthropology. Training focuses on ethnographic field work, methodology, research design, ethics, resourcefulness, interpersonal skills, and working in a cross-cultural, institutional context. Students would also learn techniques and skills in observation, interviewing, note-taking, computer software programs of use in ethnographic research, data analysis and report writing.

The summer field school was conducted over a six week period, and as such, was very intensive. In the first two weeks, students read and discussed materials in a text written for researchers in the social sciences. They practiced interviewing skills and participated in a cultural awareness workshop conducted by Ms. Gonzalez-Cortes. The faculty also led discussions on ethical issues related to ethnographic research. The student teams conducted interviews, took photos, and worked with Latino high school students for approximately three weeks (see Methodology section below). In the final two weeks, student teams compiled field note, ethnographic and photographic data, analyzed themes and developed research questions, constructed two exhibits, and wrote a final report. Students also wrote individual reflective essays at the beginning and the end of the course in which they discussed their personal goals for the project, and explored their perceptions of the Latino community before and after their research. These essays were very revealing and indicate a tremendous amount of personal and academic growth in a short period of time.

Objective 2: To develop a sense of teamwork and cooperation.

GVSU students worked in teams which allowed them to divide much of the workload. Teamwork is also very challenging as the schedules and personalities of students must be compromised. We feel a sense of cooperation was achieved.

Objective 3: To collaborate and work with the Latino community in Grand Rapids.

The research project worked with a community partner, the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, which generously offered us office space and use of its conference room for our classes. There, the students were able to gain a sense of the needs and the complexity of the Latino community. Several students also participated in community activities. Students took photos and accompanied the high school students throughout the community where families live, people work, and children play, obtaining glimpses into the day to day routine of life in the street, at factories, at restaurants, at schools, etc. Others were invited into private homes where they interacted with the entire family and were invited to dinner.

Objective 4: To gain an understanding of the perspectives of the Latino Community though the eyes of the high school students.

One of the most common emotions students shared was a sense of awe of the various perspectives they heard, what many families tolerated and suffered to come to the United States or just to be accepted into the country where they should enjoy inalienable rights. Students also learned about the commitment many of the Latinos have toward their ethnic community and the importance of leadership as a tool to strengthen both individuals and groups.

About half of the students had little previous contact with Latinos or other ethnic groups. These were teamed up with others who spoke some Spanish and had experiences in Latin America or in Latino communities in the U.S. Some students came to the course with certain stereotypes about Latino culture, and most had no idea that the Latino culture was so diverse in West Michigan. Yet, by the end of the course, all students (to their own surprise) affirmed the diversity of the community, and the individual diversity of customs, motivations, personal goals and levels of assimilation to the dominant culture. Many stated that they were humbled by learning of the personal commitment that Latinos devote to their community.

 

Field School Activities

      The ANT 307 course was conducted between May 7 and June 20, 2001, with two students working an additional two weeks as paid research assistants. Teams of high school and GVSU students conducted a number of activities, including taking photos, collecting artifacts that represent the history of the Latino community, and recording (interview) narratives pertaining to the cultural context of the photographs/artifact. GVSU students often interviewed the high school students, especially during field work and group analysis of the photos in order to gather the students' perspectives on the photos taken and on their vision of community identity. In addition, ten interviews were conducted with community members on the cultural context of the photographs and cultural artifacts. Specific student activities were as follows:

    attending a cultural awareness training provided by the Hispanic Center

    interviewing

    producing field notes and transcriptions of taped interviews

    keeping a log of weekly work hours and activities

    writing weekly reports on critical incidents that they experienced during the field work process

    taking photos and developing film

    collecting physical data such as cultural artifacts

    coding and analyzing field notes with ATLASti

    keeping a Team Portfolio of data

    attending weekly debriefing sessions during which discussions of the learning

    writing a final team report on the research and findings

    writing a final reflective essay on the experience of qualitative research and on the Latino community experience and the success of the project were freely engaged.

    constructing an photography exhibit

    oral presentation

      Although not required for the field school, students were encouraged to participate in professional activities and events: (1) to present the results of your research at a poster session, on Student Scholarship Day 2002, and for a student presentation at GVSU or in the community, (2) to attend the 8th Annual Growing Communities Conference, Streets, & Community, held June 2001, (3) to sit on a panel at GVSU's Conference on the Americas, held February 2002, (4) to present a paper or poster at an academic conference, such as the Central States Anthropology Conference, (5) to use the experience to set up an internship or a service learning experience for the coming academic year, (6) to write an article for submission to the school newspaper, the Grand Rapids Press, or one of the Spanish-language news papers in Grand Rapids, and (7) to help organize a letter-writing campaign that advocates for the target community served by the project.

 

METHODOLOGY

      The student activities, listed in the previous section, were grounded in our methodology. Here, we provide detail on the primary methods we used: participant-observation, photography and the photo review sessions with the high school students, interviewing, the self-reflection essay, data analysis, constructing a photo exhibit, and other methods employed. A discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of team work and cross-cultural collaboration follows.

 

Participant-Observation:
Participant observation provided teams with the opportunity to learn more about the people who make up the community. As most of our data came from interactions with the high school students and community members, the participant-observation method worked best. As one team put it, Merely observing would not have given us the scope, depth, or breadth of information that we needed. Through interaction, we were able to ask specifically for information and for clarification. This hands-on type of learning offered us the chance to immerse ourselves in the culture, finding out what it means to be Hispanic in a more intimate fashion. The only way to truly understand something is to get involved and to join in.

 

      For example, each team was required to attend the Latino Children's Festival. During the festival, the GVSU students participated in some of the activities, while also observing the interaction of the Latino families in attendance. An advantage to this research method was it placed the GVSU students in direct contact with the community being studied, and gave them a first hand knowledge of the social climate.

 

Photography Teams:

      To obtain visual data, the Grand Valley students teamed up with the high school students who took the pictures and explain the importance of their choices. The college students were divided into three groups, and each group had one to three high school students to work with. The high school students were given disposable cameras to use during each week, in order to take pictures that were deemed pertinent to the project through the students' eyes. At mutually agreed upon times during the week, the high school and university students (in their individual teams) would meet to take pictures in the community and to get a feel for the community. This also involved going to the student's home. The opportunities included helping the students with their assignment of photographing places, objects and people that embraced their Latino culture and personal interaction in informal areas (eating together, sitting around a table chatting, helping with homework, etc.). Working with the Latino gave us a good view into the culture through their eyes, and this was supplemented by what we learned through interviews.

      The high school students were also provided instructions on what to do. They were asked to keep track of your photos in a project journal kept at home. We wanted them to take photos, write in their journals, and collect items that represent the history and culture of your community. Each week they took home a disposable camera, and were encouraged to take pictures of their own of family, neighborhood, and culture. Each week, the high school students returned the film/cameras, and all the students would meet together for a 'photo review session.'

      We provided the high school students with a structured set of foci/questions to guide their field activities:

                Think about where you live, your community, school, and home, and what makes them special and unique.

                What do you want to say about your community? What do you want to show about your community to the rest of the world?

                Which photos honestly represent your culture?

                What do you want them to see and understanding about family life? Friendship? Neighborhood? Work? Play? Food? Music?

                What makes a photo composition good in relation to your purpose? What artistic improvements can you make on the next roll of pictures?

                What makes your culture special and unique?

                What does it mean to be Latino/Hispanic?

 

The Photo Review Sessions:

      During the photo review sessions, the high school students would talk amongst themselves (within their groups with the college students) and pick out the photos they thought best represented the Latino community and culture in the area. The college students then wrote notes about the discussions. As this was a learning experience, the objective was for each student to come away with a personal interpretation, which was then synthesized into a group effort.

      The sessions went well except that it was hard for the high school students to articulate their comments as well as they may have wished. Although these sessions were structured, in the field the high school students were the ones who controlled where we went and what photographs were taken. Our students accompanied them, taking notes on what the youth thought was important. The high school students were thus viewed as experts. In addition, the disposable camera provided students with greater freedom to take photographs of a more personal nature. A personal journal was provided so that the students could record their thoughts and feelings about the subject matter, what the photograph meant to them, why they took the photograph and what the photograph meant to the larger community. These journals were read and analyzed at the end of each week by the college students.

      

Interviews:

        The college students participated in several interviews with local community members (see Interview Questionnaire). Prospective interviewees were contacted directly by the ANT 307 faculty and staff to ascertain their willingness to be interviewed. They were then called by the student team conducting the photography and interview to establish a date and time of a meeting. The interviews targeted adult, Latinos from a variety of ethnic/national backgrounds, primarily Mexican- and Puerto Rican-Americans. We used a snow-ball sampling strategy, asking interviewees for the names of others they thought would like to be interviewed for the project. Interviewing was an important part of the project. Not only did it provide us with more details about the Latino community, but also it gave us an adult perspective of the community and teams were able to make connections with people that were interested in the project.

      The team interviews were guided by a set of interview questions, including general data questions that gave information about the interviewee, the address and phone number of the subject, and the interview context. Other topics covered by the interview questions included family history, personal culture and heritage, the interview subject's neighborhood and community as well as questions about identity and role within the larger community.

      The interviews were best accomplished by two people working together. During the interviews, one team member would do the majority of talking, while the other one would take notes. The person taking notes would also jump in with questions of their own or help clarify a question unclear to the interviewee. The person doing the interview was responsible for the tape recorder and providing a copy of the interview tape to the note taker, while the latter would give a copy of the field notes to the interviewer.

      The interviewing process had advantages and disadvantages for the GVSU students. One advantage was the way interviewing supplemented the information that was being provided by the high school students. The interview subjects were all much older, and had greater experience within the community than the high school students. Thus, the interviewees could provide a vast knowledge and understanding of the important aspects of the Latino community of West Michigan. A disadvantage experienced in the interviewing process was mainly of a technical nature. For example, different teams experienced problems with tape recorders, and with camera malfunctions.

 

Self-Reflection Essay:

      Early on in the course, we asked students to consider the readings and the class discussion and write a reflective essay. The assignment was designed with two specific goals in mind:

    To serve as a means of self-assessment which the student can re-read at the end of the course to gauge your personal and academic growth.

    To give the project directors information as to student experiences with other cultures and a feel for their perceptions about others.

         Students were evaluated on how well they expressed and explored ideas of stereotype, ethnicity, ethnocentrism, and cultural relativism, and how well they applied these ideas to their own experiences. The questions were:

1.      In what ways do you see the Latino culture as different than your own?

2.      In what ways are your personal experiences, heritage, religion, etc. similar to and different from Latinos? Are all Latinos the same? How do you distinguish them?

3.      What stereotypes, or preconceptions, do you have of Latinos?

4.      Why are some Americans prejudiced against Latinos? (Why use quotation marks around Americans?)

5.      How do you think culture shock and cultural relativism might apply to your research?

6.      What do you hope to learn about the Latino culture in this research?

7.      What do you want to learn in this summer field school in general?

8.      What are you most worried about as you begin this research?

9.      What other cultures have you had experience with?

10.    How would you respond if it became apparent that the Latino/interviewee resented being studied by outsiders? How would you feel?

 

Other Methods:

         In addition to the main methods of data collection, we compiled U.S. Census data to gain more knowledge of the diversity of the Latino community. Another supplemental methods was background literature (see Course Syllabus). GVSU students read articles concerning issues of Latino culture, stereotyping, and the ways in which these issues can effect field research. The GVSU students were also provided guides and information on how to conduct field research and how to write field notes. A photography workshop was provided to instruct the students in how to take good photos. The big advantage of the supplemental materials provided early in the project was the way these prepared the students for what to expect in the field, how to react, and how to document findings.

 

Data Analysis:

         GVSU students were instructed in how to use the ATLASti computer program to help data input and retrieval of the field notes and subject codes generated by the project. The data from the interview tapes, field notes, and critical incident reports are coded and entered into the qualitative research software program which gave the students the ability to categorize and organize data according to topics, themes or issues.

 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Team Work and Collaboration:

         Working in teams helped us to gather more information than if working individually, much like using the largest net possible to capture the most information. The advantage to working with high school students was the chance to see everyday occurrences through their fresh eyes while providing them with the chance to rediscover their community and heritage. For the most part, the university students had positive interaction with the Latino students. This positive interaction and rapport allowed for access typically unavailable to our college students. Working in teams made the project productive because students had others with whom to talk and share their observations and experiences. As one student reported, We could share ideas and observations to see if we all basically got the same thing out of the fieldwork and the interviews. Also, if one of us had missed something, someone else in the team could provide that missing part. The tasks of the teams were split up equally during interviews or writing up team papers. The individuals would work on the parts of the paper that they picked and then later on the teams would get together to combine their efforts.

         There were also several drawbacks from the team work. These included the language barrier, encountered within their team and in the community as well. Although we used a cover letter explaining the project in Spanish, there were additional questions regarding the project and, without a Spanish-speaking student, some teams were unable to effectively communicate. Some groups experienced a difficulty in understanding the high school students while they explained how a particular photo represented Latino history, or community, or culture. Language is the challenge of the ethnographic experience  to interpret and translate culture. Ethnographers recast grass-roots knowledge into a thick description that allows the subjects a way to see their culture in a new light. This was the challenge given to these fledgling ethnographers.

         Some of the obstacles encountered with the high school students included the small number of student involvement, limited time, and logistical problems. The degree of commitment for the high school students was less than that of the university students, resulting in a problem with the reliability of the high school students in terms of attending all the meetings. Some of the students had problems with the required time commitment. As the high school students did not drive, there was often the issue of driving the students to the photo review sessions.

         Coordinating the schedules of the university students, though challenging, was necessary to communicate and interact in a meaningful manner with both team members and high school students. Another challenge was learning how to clarify and ask appropriate questions in an inoffensive manner. Of course, some of the teams experienced technical difficulties with their cameras or tape recorders, making field experiences trying at times.

 

The Research Population:

         The research population for this project encompassed a small group of the Latino community of Grand Rapids. In general, the Latino community is located in the southwest portion of the city, centered on Grandville Avenue, which is characterized by residential and industrial zones. There are also high Latino populations in the nearby city of Wyoming, and around the Godfrey St. and Lee St. area.

         Our research population comprised of two groups. First were the Latino high school students selected by Martha Gonzalez-Cortes (HCWM). The schools represented in our project are Adelante High School, a predominantly Latino high school within Grand Rapids Public Schools, Union High School (Grand Rapids), and Rogers High School (Wyoming). The high school students were recruited by the Hispanic Center for the project, with assistance from Rosa Fraga, an administrator within the Grand Rapids Public Schools. Ms. Gonzalez-Cortes attended a meeting of the Yo Puedo youth program, which is designed to help Latino students gain access to college and to urge them to complete high school. The students were offered an opportunity to be a part of this project. Originally, close to fifty students signed up and said they were interested in working with the project. At the first project meeting, on May 5th, only about ten of the students were in attendance. Some students left the project early on while others joined the project in progress. By the end of the six weeks, eight dedicated high school students remained. These students were roughly between the ages of 15 and 18 all of Mexican ethnicity, though one claimed some Puerto Rican ethnicity.

         There is substantial variation in the amount of time that each Latino student has lived in the United States. For example Alejandra, Maria Isabella, Juan Carlos, and Alfonso were all born in Mexico and later migrated to the U.S. with their families. Of these, Juan Carlos has lived in the U.S. for the shortest amount of time, reflected in his knowledge on the English language and how he struggled to interact with the GVSU team members. By contrast, Connie was a second generation Mexican-American, born in the United States. Christina was also born in the U.S.; her parents were born in Mexico and still have strong ties to their families there.

         The second group of participants from the community was the interviewees. They were selected by several criteria: time spent in the community, involvement with the Latino community, and knowledge about the community. Two of the interviewees were not Latino by heritage; but their involvement in the community was overwhelmingly an aspect we took into consideration. For example, Father Ted Koslowski is a priest who has worked with the Latino community for over forty years. He provided a great deal of insight into the local Latino community, and knew more about Latino traditions and customs than many of the high school students on the team. One interviewee was a chance encounter, two were personal friends, and others were reached either through personal acquaintances or through contact with the community, i.e. the Latino Childrens Festival.

         Interviews were obtained in several different ways. Working with the high school students, we were able to connect with community members. However, due to time constraints and poor weather, the time spent in the community was limited. We thus took advantage of our personal connections within the community. As a last resort, contacts from a previous ethnographic school were also utilized.

         Ten interviews were conducted, with a total of fourteen voices being represented in the interview notes. The ages of the interviewees were from 22 to 67 and included seven females and seven males. Five of the interviewees were Puerto Rican, five were Mexican, one was both Mexican and white, and two interviewees were white, as mentioned above. The subjects also perceived differences in social standing based on their personal ethnicities. For example, Maria Velazquez perceived herself as an American because of her Puerto Rican background. Maria explained that because Puerto Rico is a part of the United States, Puerto Ricans who migrate to the U.S. have an easier time getting a job and making a life for themselves here than Mexicans typically do. Four of the interviewees are first generation Latinos in the U.S., while the others have lived in the U.S. for a longer period.

         The occupations of the interview population were varied. Four worked in school systems as teachers, counselor or providing childcare. Other occupations noted were: priest, bus driver, homemaker, tortilla factory owner, cook, painter, and community program coordinator. The interview subjects also varied in age; the majority of the interviewees were middle-aged adults, though there were two youths in their twenties.

         We should mention other individuals who had a secondary role in the interviewing, including the director of the Hispanic Center of West Michigan and the staff, the families of the high school students, Carmela Zapata, the project field coordinator, and her mother.

 

THE DATA AND RESULTS

         After the three weeks of photography and photo review sessions, the GVSU teams input the project documents, including pages and pages of field notes, into the ATLASti program. The data was coded according to the main themes developed during the field work. Each of the three teams was assigned a set of codes to apply to the text data. Once work on the textual database was completed, text could be retrieved by code/topic. Each team then completed a Final Report, parts of which I edited and include below in this section.

 

Coding:

         The codes were created to represent five sets of data: demography, family, culture /heritage, neighborhood, and identity. The codes are listed below:

 

I.      DEMOGRAPHY:

         A.     PLACE  Name of place in community

         B.     INTTIME  Interview time

         C.     INTPLACE  Interview location

         D.     INTCONTEXT  special context of the interview

         E.     AGE  age of informant

                  1.         ADULT  relating to adults (19 +)

                  2.         YOUTH  relating to youth (13-18)

                  3.         CHILDREN  relating to children (0-12)

                  4.         ELDERLY  relating to the elderly

         F.     SEX  male/female

         G.     GENDER  relating to gender roles and socially-constructed ideas of gender

         H.     ETHNICITY  relating to ethnic background/heritage/nationality

 

II.     FAMILY = FAMILY HISTORY:

         A.     GRTIME  How long the family has lived in Grand Rapids

         B.     FAMHIST  What attracted the family to this area? How the family came to the U.S./GR

         C.     YGR - Reasons why the family came to Grand Rapids

         D.     FAMAREA  Other family living in the area

         E.     FAMFAR  Relatives out-of-state; location

         F.     WORK  employment

         G.     FAMBOND  what makes Latino families strong and close to one another; what is most important about holding the family together.

 

III.    CUSTOMS = CULTURE AND HERITAGE

         A.     VALUES  morality, should/shouldn't do

         B.     TRADITIONS  daily rituals

         C.     PASSAGE  rites of passage, formal and informal

         D.     HOLIDAY  seasonal celebrations, collective

         E.     FESTIVAL  celebrations, collective

         F.     DIFCULTURE  customs/traditions different than those of other Latino groups in Grand Rapids?

 

IV.   BARRIO = NEIGHBORHOOD & COMMUNITY LIFE

         A.     BARRIO  the best things about living in this neighborhood; the qualities of a good community/neighborhood.

         B.     BETTERBARRIO  in need to be improvement; suggestions?

         C.     RELIGION

         D.     EDUCATION

         E.     SOCSERVICE  community organizations, Hispanic Center, Latin American Services?, etc.

         F.     MEDIA  newspapers

         G.     SOCGROUPS  misc. groups/clubs

 

V.     IDENTITY = IDENTITY

         A.      IDENTITY  relating to issues of identity; self-conceptions; perceptions of community, ethnicity, nationality, outsider culture

         B.     XCULT  the part of culture that do you think outsiders misunderstand most; what outsiders need understand most.

         C.     DIVERSITY  GR atmosphere for cultural diversity; ethnic relations

         D.     SOCCHANGE  relating to change in people, culture, society

         E.     GOVERNMENT  relating to government institutions, views, policy, and police

 

Team One: Family

         While all three teams integrated the demographic data, each team was responsible for a set of information from the larger database. Team One was assigned the data and analysis for family. The set of codes bearing on family included: how long one has lived in Grand Rapids (GRTIME), how and why the family came to the U.S. (FAMHIST), and why specifically the family chose to move to the West Michigan area (YGR). Other codes also addressed where family members live (FAMFAR), other relatives living in the area (FAMAREA), the job and financial situation of the family (WORK), and what particularly makes the Latino family unit strong (FAMBOND).  

         The period of time families have lived in Grand Rapids is variable. For example, many of the interviewees have spent as many as 15 to thirty years living in Grand Rapids. In contrast, the time spent in the Grand Rapids area for the high school students was much less. Alfonso, Christina, and Juan Carlos have spent less than two years in Grand Rapids, while Alejandra has spent less than ten years in Grand Rapids. The discrepancy in the amount of time the interviewees have lived in Grand Rapids versus the Latino high school students is most likely attributable to the age difference between the two populations.

         Why did families choose to move to Western Michigan and what attracted them to the area? There were many reasons why Latino families have chose to move to Grand Rapids. Many people we met during our research mentioned how the people within the community give back to society, and try to make a positive change in the local area. The interview subjects also told us there is a good feeling of community support here, because the Latino families, who have lived here awhile, welcome new comers into the neighborhood. In addition, Latinos families like how the Latino community in West Michigan tries to keep the culture alive and vibrant. Most importantly, the Latino parents and larger community feel it is important to teach their youth the value of culture at a young age.

         Another reason Latinos like the West Michigan area is because of the amount of jobs that are available here. Mexican and Puerto Ricans, typically, come here to work in agriculture. Many Latino migrants like the Grand Rapids area because Michigan, as a rule, pays better than other states for agricultural labor. Cubans immigrants were typically political refugees; Cubans tend to be better educated, and fare better than Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in the U.S. once they learn the English language.

Some interviewees mentioned they moved here to West Michigan for the sake of their children. They said that West Michigan is a better place to raise children than their old neighborhoods. For example, Maria Velazquez grew up in the Grand Rapids area, and moved to Chicago after she graduated from college. Maria met her husband in Chicago, but they decided to move back to Grand Rapids once they began to have children. Maria says they made this move because she and her husband feel Grand Rapids is a much better and safer place to raise children right now. West Michigan is also known for providing a good education and health care to immigrants. This area also hosts programs, such as the Latino Children's Festival, that get the parents and their children involved in the community. At the same time, these programs help the Latino immigrants improve their English skills.

         Word of mouth plays a major role in why some Latino families choose to live in Grand Rapids. Many of the new residents had family or friends living in Grand Rapids prior to their move. The Grand Rapids residents tell their families and friends about the good environment Grand Rapids presents, and that there is little violence and drug trafficking here. It's worthwhile to note that Grand Rapids is ranked as the ninth best city in the country for Latinos to live according to a recent Latino magazine survey.

         As for the history of families (FAMHIST), we note that the families of the high school students and interviewees came from various backgrounds. The most common places they came from were Mexico, Texas, and Puerto Rico. Through our research we learned that there are general routes migrants take before arriving in West Michigan. For example, most of the families from Mexico travel from Texas to Chicago, then to West Michigan. Puerto Ricans typically travel through New York on their way to West Michigan. Finally Cubans travel through Miami before settling in Grand Rapids.

         Another prominent theme team one studied in the data was work/occupation. Work was frequently mentioned in the field notes, particularly volunteer work (e.g., the Latino Children's Festival), and the willingness of the high school students to take part in volunteer work. The majority of the work done by the Latinos discussed in the project was low paying jobs including migrant worker, independent vendor, store clerk, cook, waiter/waitress, and supermarket attendant. Many of the interview subjects discussed the low paying jobs they worked, or knew of others working. With this discussion of low paying jobs came the discussion of the hard work ethic, which exists among the Latino population of the United States. Many Latinos living in the U.S. are forced to work two to three jobs in order to support their families. The data on work also revealed some higher paying, professional jobs. Some of the mentioned jobs include store owner, teacher, school board member, college administrator, and health care employee.

         Family bond (FAMBOND) was the final theme investigated. The major themes expressed were unity, education of Latino youth, and strict parenting style. While cultural traditions, holidays, and key events were the visible manifestation of the family bond theme. The difference between Latino family structure and other family types was also brought up in the field notes.

 

Discussion

         The theme of strong family bonds is important. Field notes and interviews abound with references to strong family ties. Depictions of family unity are also heavily seen within the photography aspect of the project. The family bond theme appeared to be important to the Latino community and the high school students we worked with, because family was involved with all aspects of community life. The family is also important to the project goals, in that we want to further our knowledge of the Latino community and what is important to the people of that community. The data point to the fact that strong family ties are important in passing on the Latino culture to its youth, and in creating a support network on which families can rely. The main method through which Latino cultures are passed on to Latino youths is by means of education and family structure. The celebration of traditional holidays and key events are the visual manifestations of these strong family bonds.

         Through the project research we found that Latino parents want their children to get involved with cultural activities. This community involvement helps to educate the Latino youth about their culture, while creating family ties with the broader community. Also in a broader sense, Latino parents want their children to get an education and to learn the English language, so their children will have better lifestyles than they have. Many Latino parents recognize the necessity of an American education in their children's lives, in helping their children to get better paying jobs in the future. But Latino parents are also very concerned with their children remembering their cultural roots and native language, which creates the parental push for community involvement as discussed above.

         As positive as education can be, it can also create tension within the family. For instance, many Latino children often learn the English language faster than their parents, which can create language barriers within the home. Latino children can also use their knowledge of the English language, and of American laws against their parents. For example Larry Zapata and Tuppen Hauschild, English Language Support teachers at Lee high school, discussed that Latino children can get out of punishment by threatening to call social services or the police on their parents. In Latin American countries, parents often discipline their children by spanking them, where as in this country that could be mistaken for child abuse  thus making the parents loathe to discipline their children in this way.

         Another way Latino culture is passed on to its youth is through the traditional family structure. In Latin American countries, the family structure is patriarchal, and the father is the undisputed head of the family. This family structure keeps the children close to home and tied to the family. We have hypothesized, based on information provided by the field notes, that Latino parents can be strict because they want to protect their children in the new environment of the U.S. The field notes also indicate that Latino parents tend to be the strictest within the first and second-generation families in the U.S. After this, the traditional family structure tends to dissipate and the Latino family becomes more Americanized.

         In the field notes, and especially the photos taken by the Latino high school students, strong family ties are visually manifested in the celebration of traditional holidays and key events. Many of the high school students took pictures of quinceañera and baptisms. Some of the Latino high school students also took pictures at key events, such as high school and college graduations. All of these events tend to involve the extended family coming together to celebrate. The Latino students expressed great family and ethnic pride as they reviewed photos from the different graduations. Latino parents may also wish to create a support network through their children, who will then care for the parents when they get older. Alta expressed this to Melissa and Emma in their interview with her, that children are the most important aspects of the family because they hold the family together and carry on the family's traditions.

         The reliance of many Latinos on extended family and community ties was another issue addressed in many of the field notes. Strong family bonds allow for extended family and community support networks to evolve within the Latino community. This reliance on extended family and community ties provides the Latino families with a broad support network of people they can rely on for help. The support network can be very helpful for new immigrant families in trying to adjust to live in the U.S. These support networks can help families with immigration, financial difficulties, education, and health care access. This support network can expand to include every member of the family, often including the children who do odd jobs to aid the larger family.

         Overall the data we found supported the theme of strong family bonds within the Latino community. The data suggest that family bonds are important for passing on the Latino culture, and for creating social support networks that Latino families can rely on. Early on in this course we discussed the issue of stereotypes, and what are prevalent stereotypes about the Latino community in America. This list included both negative and positive stereotypes, such as Latino families have strong bonds. Our research has supported the positive aspects of family ties  a positive force within the Latino community.

         The Transnational Communities idea, addressed in Davis' book Magical Urbanism ties into the theme of strong family bonds. Transnational communities consist of migrant and immigrant workers who come to this country for a certain time of the year to work, then return to their native homes for the remainder of the year. These migrant workers send home the majority of the money they earn while in this country to their families back in Latin America. The migrant workers are here to earn more money to support their families. These migrant workers maintain ties with their native communities while building a new life in this country. Many of the Latinos we encountered during this field school affirm this idea of a transnational community. Many of the local Latino families maintain strong ties with foreign relatives, while creating Latino culture within the West Michigan area.

 

Team Two: Neighborhood and Community Life

         When asked about the best aspects of one's neighborhood, the range of answers was broad. At one end of the spectrum, an interviewee believed that strong Latino leadership was present. At the other end of the spectrum, representation was viewed as non-existent. The components of a good neighborhood included safer environment, access to good education, employment opportunities and working together/unity. On the other hand, areas of improvement included housekeeping issues (such as keeping the lawn cut), access to quality education, concern for increased violence, a friendlier atmosphere and concern for the streets. This last comment targeted the placement of a prison complex within the Grandville Ave. neighborhood and included not only the safety issues but also the message to the community.

         We asked interviewees which social institution was most important to them providing them with the following choices: Religion, Education, Social Service organizations, Media and Social Groups. Religion was by far the institution mentioned the most, with education as a close second.

Social groups included neighborhood associations geared towards neighborhood safety and a social club organized around sports car ownership. Media was represented in the form of Spanish newspapers and a Latino radio station. For the most part, these were viewed in a positive light. The community's access to three Spanish newspapers is seen as a plus, providing a learning experience for the dominant culture and a forum for Latino community concerns.

         Education was viewed very positively by all interviewees and also discussed in a positive manner by some of the high school students. Education is seen as the means to a better life, in the form of better paying jobs. But the adults also see it as an important way to maintain cultural knowledge for the young.

         Both the student population and the interviewees addressed social services, which encompass standard service institutions, (such as the Hispanic Center of West Michigan), church groups, (such as Catholic Social Services) and community action through volunteer services. Volunteering is viewed very positively within the community. It is both encouraged and expected and seen as vital to community preservation.

         Religion is very evident in the photo representations provided by the high school students, with the Virgin Mary prominently displayed. Students believe that church and religion are very important and entwined in daily life. Likewise, the majority of the adult interviewees concur that religion is important in uniting and providing guidance for their community

 

Discussion

         The project goals were to focus on Latino culture as seen through its youth. The theme that our team decided to focus on was religion due to its prominence in the data. The field notes and interviews reflect that religion is important to the entire research population. The high school students tell us that religion is important to them because it enforces traditional values, which include respect for family, community service and maintaining cultural traditions. They communicate this to us not only in their words but also through their photographs.

         Family, education, and religion are important components of the Latino community in Grand Rapids. Not surprisingly all three of these social institutions play an important role in retaining one's cultural heritage. Religion appears to be a high priority for all of the students and almost all of the adults we interviewed. One can recognize the importance of religion to the students by looking at the number of photographs taken where religion was a major theme. We wanted to further investigate why religion is important to the students and the community.

At its most basic level, religion expresses a way of understanding the fundamental themes in community life. In the Latino community it encompasses family, social service, community involvement, education and the passing on of tradition from one generation to another. It also serves as a unifier, bringing Latinos together as one group, regardless of ethnicity, denomination or church affiliation. The community has told us that religion is an important aspect of Latino culture, but when we look more closely, we wonder if it is truly religious doctrine that is important to the community. Is it possible that the importance of religion lies not in faith but community service and symbolism of unity, guidance, and protection?

When we first started this project, we thought religion was the most important social institution in the community. Overwhelmingly the data indicated that everyone was in agreement that religion, especially in the form of symbols like the Virgin promoted unity throughout the Latino community. Religion and spirituality are not the same thing. We made a false judgment. We assumed that if the community was strongly tied to the church that they were also strongly tied to the religious doctrine of the church. However, this is not the case. Our findings show that the services provided by the church are more important to the community than the doctrine. These services are why the church is so important to the community regardless of denomination or ethnic background. We find that the church takes care of the special needs of the community in the form of social services, strengthening family ties, reinforcement of cultural heritage, and respect for life. This is what makes it such an important institution.

As the youth are educated in American schools, Latino families fear the potential loss of their culture. Parents are torn between teaching children about their heritage while educating them for their future role in the American economic system. Religion helps in preserving traditions and historical culture, and promotes respect for family life, community service, and brotherhood. In combining these cultural values of the church with the American educational system the children will still be able to hold on to their rich cultural heritage and learn how to negotiate their ethnicity within the American economic system.

Religion for the Latino community means more than just learning spiritual doctrine. It is a tool for the Latino community. Religion helps promote the same values that are important to the family in preservation of cultural traditions and the church provides a social network for service in the community.

The church in alliance with community social service agencies is able to meet the more complex needs of the community. Many Latinos distrust the American government, so when problems arise they can turn to the church, which in turn can point them in the right direction. Providing such things as immigration information, language assistance classes, provisions like food, clothing and shelter, job placement and language translation. For those in the community who are not willing or unable to work through the governmental system for assistance, they can always turn to the church.

When we collected data, we found that the importance of the role of the church was depicted in symbolism that was visible throughout the community. Reference to the Virgin is plentiful. Her importance revolves around her ability to provide guidance, unity and protection, paralleling the same functions of the church in the community. Her presence permeates the community. She is found in jewelry and clothing. She is found in restaurants and murals. However, Her high visibility is not necessarily tied to religious faith. Everyone we spoke with addressed the importance of the Virgin in terms of guidance, unity and protection. Yet it was not until we spoke to Father Kozlowski that we truly understood the initial story behind the Virgin. The symbol of the Virgin is understood by everyone, it is a figure that is respected and like many other traditions and rituals the meaning behind the Virgin has changed to reflect the contemporary ideology of the Latino community. Instead of being a symbol of faith, She has become a symbol of community and respect, two things that are very important to the Latino community. She is still known as the Mother to all Hispanics, but appears to guide the population in unity and pride rather than spirituality and a closer relationship with God.

The Virgin is not the only symbol whose meaning has changed from one of religious meaning to that of something new. Take for example the piñata. The tradition of the piñata goes back to Mexico when the piñata stood for the devil. Representing the battle between good and evil. When evil was defeated good would come to all. Today the piñata does not have the same importance. Instead, its function is entertainment for the youth, serving as a ritual that is present at most family celebrations, holidays, festivals, birthdays and so forth. During these occasions young and old participate as a family and as a community. This is a tradition that is practiced today for its historical tie to the community not for the religious symbolism of the fight between good and evil.

Another example can be found in rites of passage. The quinceañera is a spiritual ritual from Aztec times. In this ceremony the community would gather both males and females at age 15 and celebrate their passage into the adult world. Acknowledging that their days of being taken care of by the community were in the past, this ceremony was the opportunity to look forward, prepare for the future and make a spiritual commitment to the community, a community that had supported them in their youth. The quinceañera is still a very strong part of the Latino community. The celebration continues though the emphasis is no longer on both sexes but seems to be focused on the females. When we asked our interviewees about important events in the community they all suggested that we take part in a quinceañera. Interestingly enough when we asked the youth about the meaning behind these rituals they were unable to give us a clear answer, and the adults also had a hard time explaining the ritual event to us. We eventually found the answer when we talked to Father Kozlowski who described the event in detail. This was once a spiritual event. Like the image of the Virgin and the practice of breaking the piñata the religious symbolism found in the quinceañera has also changed.

This does not mean that the change is negative or that the community is less in touch with spirituality or faith. They are still very much tied to religious values, yet the church means more than just the worship of God. It signifies commitment to the family, the community, to social services and to humanity. In every culture we practice rituals, and value symbols that have cultural significance to our lives, but historically the meaning behind these items can and do change to reflect the sentiment of the community.

 

Team Three: Latino Community and Culture

         Through the use of interviews and input from the high school students, we were able to collect a large amount of qualitative and a some quantitative data concerning the Latino community and culture. The information was then divided into two important categories: culture/heritage and identity. Our team's focus was on culture and heritage which encompassed values, traditions, rites of passage, holidays, festivals, and the diversity between Latino cultures in Grand Rapids. Some cultural aspects that emerged when reviewing the data involving traditions were dress, dance, food, language, giving, Aztec influence and national symbols.

         In defining rites of passage, we included an event that took a person from one stage of life into another. For example, as discussed above, a quinceañera is a birthday celebration where a girl is introduced to womanhood. Other rites of passage included weddings, baptisms, and graduations. We noticed that many rites of passages were celebrated through other aspects of the culture that also fell into the category of traditions.

         Next, we examined the category of holidays. Holidays were defined as a celebration that takes place on a certain day every year to commemorate an event or occurrence. Christmas was resoundingly mentioned, partly for the religious aspect and also for different ways it is celebrated. Two Puerto Rican interviewees mentioned barrandas or asalto, a type of caroling. It involves a family or group of people, gathering together and going from home to home singing and playing music. The serenading family cannot go into the house until the song is finished. The people being serenaded have to then make soup, usually chicken. After the singing and eating, they would enjoy some time together. There also was data on Thanksgiving, Cinco de Mayo, New Year's Eve, Little Christmas a.k.a. King's Day, and Discovery Day.

         Other celebrations included in our data, but which differ from holidays, are festivals. Festivals were defined as celebrations or social gatherings focused on a theme. These may happen every year, but the time and reason for the festival can change. The Latino Children's Festival was mentioned many times, as every member of the field school along with the high school students attended this festival. Other festivals mentioned were the Hispanic Festival and the Mexican Festival, both of which take place in Grand Rapids.

         Values are also an aspect of our culture and heritage topic. Values are characterized by a degree of what one thinks is an appropriate way for living and conducting one's life. Morals are an aspect of values. Much of the data was premised on parenting, focusing on the tendency for Latino parents to be strict, and the parent's desire for their children to attain a good education while still retaining their heritage. As one GVSU student put it in her field notes: Through tradition and the passing of religious morals and beliefs one can hold a child close to home and close to the cultural ideals of his or her parents. Most of the data on values regarding parenting and education was collected from the interviews, as most of the people interviewed were older and had children.

         Regarding the differences between Latino cultures, we were only able to compare Mexican and Puerto Rican differences. This was due to the fact that our data only involved these two cultures. These differences brought up a question of animosity between the groups, which is both supported and denied in our data. Differences in food were mentioned of course, and some found that language dialects are very different. Other differences regarding sport preferences and immigration were referenced. One of the Puerto Rican interviewees explains, One of the biggest misconceptions of the majority, the white people and the African-Americans is that they think that all the Latinos are the same. And that is a big mistake. The only thing we have in common is the language, and the Spaniards that invaded our land; that is the only thing we have in common.

 

Discussion

         The major themes we would like to address here are (a) the importance of piñatas and the story related to them, and (b) food, dances, and dress associated with holidays (especially Christmas), quinceañera, and weddings, and (c) the traditions involved with these aspects of culture. One unifying part of these themes is that they all involve visual symbolism. By symbolism we refer to the way people assign cultural meaning to repeating practices.

         The issue of symbolism is especially important to the high school students. Symbolism is a way of maintaining a tie to one's identity that sometimes can't be expressed as succinctly through words. Younger people seem to be more visually oriented, and while they couldn't relay why a symbol recalls an emotion or feeling, they intuitively understand the meaning and importance a certain symbol relates to their life. The Latino population of Grand Rapids also benefits from the use of symbols and while they may sometimes feel hindered by a language barrier, or feel out of place, these symbols can give a feeling of familiarity and comfort. Symbols can become social security blankets and can be handed off from one generation to the next.

         The theme of symbolism is important to the project goals on two levels. First, because this is to be a part of a photo exhibition, visual symbolism plays an integral part in causing feelings, emotions, and understandings conveyed by the exhibition through the student's viewpoints. Secondly, even the title of the project suggests visual representation of cultural ideas, which logically stems from symbolism.

         The symbols that are produced through rites of passage, holidays, festivals and traditions are important to the community because it keeps a tie to their heritage. Many have family which may serve to reinforce these ties, but the symbols are still necessary to define their identity in a country that is very diverse. For example, the quinceañera, a girl's fifteenth birthday, has many symbolic aspects involved in the celebration. During Team 3 interview with Oscar, he discussed this celebration: &on a girl's fifteenth birthday she dresses up in pastel colors, not totally white, because she is not a bride. This celebration is an introduction into Latino society. Oscar goes on to note that If, she is still a virgin, then she can dress up in her dress and she can go into church. If she is not a virgin, then she can't dress up. It would be a mockery. During the celebration of a girl coming of age, the symbolism gives a social nature to the community, brings families together, and reinforces a culture's values and morals by requiring that the girl be a virgin for the celebration to be true. The resort to use flags, dances and other symbolic representations of culture was perpetuated on many occasions, and underscores the integration of these factors into the daily lives of the Latino community.

         Reliance on symbolism makes it possible for the Latino community to communicate their views of themselves through their identity. The symbolism that is important to the community provides an intangible link between their lives in the U.S. and the particular country that they identify with. It helps them to express who they are, where they're from. This is especially evident when comparing the difference between the Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. Alta felt disconnected from the Latino community because there were no symbols of Puerto Rico to be found. She said that it is hard to find Puerto Rican identity in Grand Rapids, when you go into stores in Chicago you can see symbols of her country displayed. The machete, sombrero, coquin (frog), and the rooster are traditional symbols of her country. These make her feel at home and she misses this in Grand Rapids. Distinguishing self is also an important factor when creating identity, and the different symbols, whether they are communicated by the different flags or even different holidays regarding independence or discovery can help define one's personal culture.

 

CONCLUSIONS

         The field school project learned much from the high school students and people of the community. We found that the students were oriented towards strong family bonds as crucial to passing on Latino culture to Latino youths. Unity is reinforced within the immediate family through the traditional, strict parenting style; and in the extended family through the sharing of resources. Ethnicity is passed on to its youth through education; it is reinforced through the family structure; and it is visually manifested in the celebration of traditional holidays and key events. The social support network within the Latino community is established through bonds of unity within the extended family, and between the family and the larger community. Bonds of unity are established with the community through volunteer work and community activism. The Latino community values family life, language, and cultural heritage.

         In addition to family, churches and schools are the most important neighborhood institutions. The data reflects that for the most part the Latino community likes the opportunities that the Grand Rapids area has to offer while still acknowledging that there are changes that need to be made. The adult population misses the reciprocal nature of their neighborhood relationships in both Puerto Rico and Mexico, but they enjoy better employment opportunities, education and healthcare in Grand Rapids. All in all, Grand Rapids provides a good climate for community growth.

         Our findings suggest a third area of importance: customs and ethnic symbolism that instills a sense of cultural identity and group solidarity. The Latino community has proven to be a wealth of information on their culture and heritage, and they are very open and willing to share this with us. In general, people remain closely tied to their roots, and are able to explain what they see as important to them in community, and how they keep traditions and customs alive. They are able to do this successfully, in part, because of the retention of cultural symbolism that helps to reinforce their identity. While there is a general Latino umbrella culture, there are underlying differences. We have learned that all Latinos are not alike; there is a need to be careful when making generalizations about their culture. Most Latinos interviewed during this project explained that they need to focus on the cultural similarities while in the U.S. to get things accomplished as a whole in order to be an effective community. We think that many of the major stereotypes of Latinos proved to be untrue during our research, and we now have a greater appreciation of the struggles that some Latinos face depending on circumstances.

 

Final Comments and Future Research

         This project has given us an intimate knowledge of the Latino community. We have learned about the community through the guidance of the Latino high school students, and the information gained from the interviews. As a class, the GVSU students were introduced to Latino religion, education, family, and community life through the lenses of Latino youth, deeply embedded within this particular way of life. In terms of religion, the students were given a sense of the symbolic importance of the Virgin Mary, and how the Virgin transcends the boundaries of Christian denominations. The Virgin is universal symbol with which many Latinos can identify. We have seen how education can serve to reinforce traditional culture, while also helping the Latino youths build a better foundation for their futures. Latino family and community life, we have found, are bound up in one another and serve to create a social support network that families can rely on.

         We should learn more about the Latino community. A future research question might focus on family bonds in second and third generation Latino families within the United States. The diversity within the Latino community needs to be further addressed. Future research should represent all ethnic groups, including Guatemalans, for example, rather than focusing on the more populous Mexican and Puerto Rican population. Research should better represent the multi-cultural aspect of what we define as Hispanic or Latino. It would also be interesting to include a comparison/contrast between Kent County and Ottawa County. Three other important topics to explore are: (a) how the Latino community is adjusting to life in the U.S., today and in the long run; (b) issues of assimilation versus retaining a unique culture; and (c) the adverse influence of the U.S. culture on the values and traditions of the Latinos who desire to retain their cultural symbolism. Concerning this latter, the younger generations may be particularly vulnerable to this influence. While many youth have access to pop culture, MTV and the like, will young Latinos forget their culture or re-create it? Will ethnic representations serve them as a cultural anchor in the storm?

         Finally, future research would benefit from looking further into ethnic symbols. To connect the Latino community as it grows in size and diversity to the meaning of these symbols might reveal both aspects of unity and conflict that we could not see during this limited project.

         The Ethnographic Summer Field School conducted research with a community partner  the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan. The project wanted to maximize cooperation among various regional institutions and educational programs. With its high visibility in the community, though PR spots and media reports on research and results, the community will become aware of the important role that anthropology can play not only as a team player in the community, but also as a player in the discussion about local diversity and public policy toward minorities.

 

Outcomes of the Project

       Exposure and Vision: The Latino Youth Photography Project exhibit, HCWM. The exhibit was premiered at the 2001 Farmers Charity Golf Tournament Classic, held July 2 - 8, 2001 at Egypt Valley Country Club in Ada, Michigan. The HCWM was the leading charity of the event.

       Photographic archive, housed at the HCWM for use by Latino youth and school projects.

       Exposure and Vision: The Latino Youth Photography Project (and an Ethnographic Field School), Grand Rapids, Michigan, presented at the Society for Applied Anthropology Annual Meeting: Environment & Health in the New Millennium, Atlanta, Georgia, March 6-10, 2002.

       Faculty sponsored student presentation: Exposure and Vision: The Latino Youth Photography Project, presented at the Central States Anthropological Societys 79th annual meeting. Presenters: GVSU anthropology students, Melissa Harrington, Emma Northup, and Courtney Grosso.

       Faculty sponsored student presentation: Exposure and Vision: The Latino Youth Photography Project, to be presented at the GVSU Student Scholarship Day, April 10, 2002. Presenters: Melissa Harrington, Emma Northup, and Courtney Grosso.

Page last modified December 15, 2014