In the United States, the Hispanic population is one of the fastest growing populations (immigrant or not), with the majority being Mexican. About 18,000 out of 280, 200 residents who live in New York State’s Dutchess County are Hispanic, which is evident in the community of Poughkeepsie (Valente 2002). The Mid-Hudson Valley has been home to many different immigrant populations, which is apparent when walking down Main Street and observing the diversity of stores and restaurants. Nevertheless, within the past decade or so, a majority of immigrants to the Mid-Hudson Valley have been from Mexico (Valente 2002).
Throughout Poughkeepsie, Hispanic influences within the community are visible in the increasing number of Mexican restaurants, small stores, and the visibility of signs written in Spanish. In fact, during an immigrant march and rally in 2006, the presence of this large population was felt when a number of stores were not open for business during the day as part of a “Day Without an Immigrant” boycott. It is clear that there is a prominent social network due to the strong ethnic ties that exist within the community. Many Mexican immigrants came to the Hudson Valley for the most common reason – in search of a better job.
In a Poughkeepsie Journal article, William Valente (2002) writes about one immigrant’s experience in Poughkeepsie: Clemencia Arroyo and her two children joined her husband, who had come from Mexico to the U.S. five years before. Similar to many immigrants, the decision to migrate was influenced by the search for a better life and greater educational opportunities for their children.
In terms of assimilation into America, in Valente’s (2002) interview of the Arroyo family, the mother speaks mostly in Spanish, while the children took extra classes in order to learn English and are perfectly fluent. As members of the 1.5-generation immigrant population, they have had an easier time incorporating the American mainstream into their lives. (The 1.5-generation refers to immigrants who came to the United States during or before their teenage years.) Common among immigrant experiences, the younger sibling identifies much more with his American identity, but is happy that the family has held on to their Mexican traditions. In considering the impact of the ethnic network within Poughkeepsie, it seems that it would be a bit easier to hold on to cultural ties. The family realizes that their lives in Poughkeepsie give them an opportunity for greater education, employment opportunities, as well as a better life overall than if they still lived in Mexico.
In Valente’s (2002) article, he provides a reference to English as a Second Language resources that people may contact. It seems that the Mexican and Hispanic population has formed somewhat of an ethnic enclave in Poughkeepsie. The term ethnic enclave refers to the way immigrants organize in a community where they set up social networks helping fellow immigrants obtain jobs, while still connecting to their ethnicity (Rumbaut and Portes 2001).
The sense of community and ethnic ties are founded in the number of organizations that have been concerned with immigrants’ rights. These organizations have been established to address issues education, health, and poverty, which are common issues among immigrant groups, thus creating more resources for immigrant groups.
Rumbaut, Ruben and Alejandro Portes. 2001. Ethnicities: Children of Immigrants in America. Berkley: University of California Press.
Valente, William A. 2002. “Valley is gaining a Mexican Flavor: Immigrants Seeking Jobs.” Poughkeepsie Journal, May 5. Retrieved May 10, 2012 (http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/projects/cultures/lo050502s1.shtml).