Okay, so I have absolutely no idea why this didn't post on Friday (or why Blogger has suddenly adopted such a strange format [perhaps there is a correlation between the two]), but here goes nothing:
Reading Matt Garcia's analysis of the "Colonia Complex" at the start of the 20th century, I couldn't help but be reminded of the immigration-debate-related events that have transpired in Claremont this year. Surely we are all familiar with this piece: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/02/us/after-workers-are-fired-an-immigration-debate-roils-california-campus.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all (the New York Times is having a real field day with the Claremont Colleges recently). While I am largely unqualified to speak to the legal elements of the case, this article, when it first came out, made me think about the invisible lines that divide our college "community" and how that relates to the official and unofficial ghettoization of Mexican Americans throughout Southern California. I certainly knew that Mexican American neighborhoods existed, but it wasn't until I read the Garcia that I learned that many originated as a result of the citrus industry and workers' needs for community solidarity - or that such areas have existed and still exist in Claremont. As a Pomona student, my off-campus experiences are largely concentrated in Claremont Village, a white middle-class enclave if I've ever seen one. Walking to Arbol Verde, I saw an entirely new side of Claremont, one that made me aware of my own privilege and question my dominant understanding of the Pomona College worker firing narrative. While I don't have a solution to the problems facing the displaced workers or the college community as it stands today, I feel that the Garcia helped me to better understand the nuances at work. The push-and-pull between the wish to assimilate and the need to keep Mexican American ways of life alive and culturally autonomous is analogous in its complexity to the battle between the impulse of many undocumented workers in this country to lay low and take what they can get for fear of deportation and their strong desire to assert their rights and stand up for what they know is wrong. Another interesting tidbit I gleaned from this article is that, even in the 1920s, there were Mexican American students attending Pomona College. This complicates the history of race at the college as I see it, and makes Isabel Juarez's quote in this article all the more resonant.