Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Exploring the 'Barrios to Burbs' rise of Mexican immigrant families

If you didn't catch her earlier this morning on KPCC's Brand & Martinez, check out this interview with University of Southern California sociologist and Multi-American regular Jody Agius Vallejo, who has spent years studying middle-class Latinos in Los Angeles.

Her research is now in a book, "Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican American Middle Class," which she discussed on the show. In it she gets into several themes she's explored on this site, including how immigrant families rise from have-not to have within a generation or so, filial duty and "giving back." 

From one of Vallejo's earlier reports: back stems not from familistic cultural values, but from an ‘immigrant narrative’ rooted in a shared sense of struggle for upward mobility born out of the marginalized economic context of the Mexican immigrant experience.

All of the respondents who grew up in low-income neighborhoods underscored how much their parents had sacrificed in order to migrate to the United States, and they also described the back-breaking, low-wage and low-status jobs their parents took upon their arrival to their new host country. Now that they have achieved economic success, they feel that it is their turn to give back to the less affluent, a behavior they feel sets them apart from middle-class whites, whom they view as individualistic.

Vallejo's work focuses on the Mexican immigrant experience in Southern California, but it contains universal themes - filial duty is one - that pertain to children of immigrants in general.

I promise to post more from the book once the publisher manages to send a long-awaited copy. In the meantime, audio from today's radio interview should be up soon.