Debunking the essentialization of Latinxs on Long Island, New York

Authors: Sung-Gheel Jang*, Stony Brook University, Adrián Pérez-Melgosa, Stony Brook University
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Ethnic Geography, Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: cultural identity, essentialization, Latinx, Geo-narratives, oral history
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Who are Latinxs? To portray Latinxs spatially, we often depend on the governmental data such as census statistics representing Latinxs as one homogeneous group (i.e., Hispanic or Latino people) in a given geography even if these people are racially and culturally diverse and heterogeneous. We postulate that the much essentialized governmental data would fail to portray the diversity and complexity of Latinx people and their communities, particularly when we examine historical changes over space. To test this hypothesis, we first created interactive web maps portraying historical changes from 1960 to 2015 of various socio-demographic characteristics of Latinxs on Long Island, New York from historical census data. We then have conducted 75 targeted interviews and video-taped oral histories particularly on cultural memory or cultural heritage, and their perspectives on the same socio-demographic topics aforementioned. We selected interviewees using the snowballing sampling method with the help of local advocacy groups on Long Island. We extracted both geographic and temporal clues from transcripts, and geo-narrated video clips containing oral histories on the web maps. Lastly, we geospatially narrated local oral histories such as the Latinx workers at the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, the Ecuadorian community, and the emergence of self-support organization in the rural communities. As we hypothesized, mapping Latinxs on Long Island using the aggregated governmental data helped solidify a stereo-typed and racialized identity of Latinxs. Juxtaposing geo-narratives based on local knowledge and oral histories with maps based on historical census data could reveal the diverse identity of Latinxs on Long Island.

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