Immigrants in Greensboro
Clairissa Anderson, Ino Loloci, Meghan Kaufmann
Culture as defined by E. B. Tylor is "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society" So, if that is true than can we as designers assume that humans can adapt their previous ways of living into another culture?
Over the last few hundred years, North Carolina was traditionally thought to have been inhabited by blacks and whites. Both the black and white long-term populations reflect a variety of customs and cultures from Europe and Africa, which have constituted our immigrant populations (cnnc.uncg.edu). Contrary to observation, a majority of North Carolinians originally came from pre-existing Native American tribes or later in the 1500s from Spain. The Spaniards came to the Americas as missionaries and decided to stay. Today, according to the Census Bureau, a large portion of incoming North Carolinians hail from Asian and Latino countries. So why is it that even after hundreds of years such diverse cultures are still attracted to this area?
Immigrants are moving to Greensboro, North Carolina because of the plethora of opportunities provided for them in this area. One of the major reasons is that the cost of living is cheaper than the more traditional areas immigrants used to move to. Areas such as Boston, New York and Los Angles are becoming densely populated and the opportunities for jobs are simply no longer present. In addition to this, Greensboro has many labor jobs that are more readily available for individuals in search of work. These factors create economic stability, which greatly impact the decision of individuals to move to this area.
Psychologically, there are multiple reasons immigrants enjoy living in Greensboro. To some, the availability of a quality education for their children is better than where they previously lived. One man was quoted as saying: “I want to give my children more commodities, a better opportunity, not only for themselves, but also, if not more so, for their children. I don’t want them to have to worry about economics like when we were young. I only want them to worry about their education, something we did not get.” After enrolling their children in school, immigrants are more likely to feel involved and connected to this country and their local school district. Through community involvement and diversity represented at public schools, immigrants have a better chance of meeting others from their homeland. In most scenarios, individuals tend to create communities from common interests. This thought was expressed deeper in Saint Augustine’s The City of the Gods, where he stated: “A community is a group of people united by the common objects of their love.”
One might assume that the current immigration debate may deter Mexicans, and other immigrants, from moving to this country. However, this does not seem to be the case. According to Shultz’s 2008 article titled, The Lives of Latino Immigrant Males in Rural Central Kentucky, many Mexican immigrants do not feel as though they are discriminated against. However, they make clear that they do not interact with Americans often outside of work. "The local people are friendly and none of us have experienced any feelings of exclusion or discrimination. The main thing separating us from the local community right now is the language, but that's it.” (Gilded). This shows that immigrants feel comfortable living here and want to stay for the opportunities they have.
In most cases, the physicality here, in the United States, allows for better opportunities than their homeland did. Individuals are able to purchase homes that can accommodate all family members under one roof. The average Mexican household is larger than the typical American, thus creating a greater need for space. However, not all cultures require the large room sizes that Americans want. Because of cultural differences, immigrants with large families are able to adapt to the typical American family-of-four sized home. For example, six young Mexican men share a two bedroom, one bath apartment in Kentucky, a similar environment to Greensboro, NC (Inside the Gilded Cage). One cultural difference, such as the American need for personal private space, is why immigrants are able to bypass the need for larger homes. This allows them to save money for other daily needs.
For most people, the cost of living and job opportunities affect where they choose to move. The same is true for the immigrant population because of the economic differences. After moving to the United States, most immigrants change their field of work not because of their newly found freedoms, but because of the restrictions the American government has placed on them. Restrictions that affect settlers include language barriers and having young families. Both of these restrictions make it difficult for settlers to communicate their needs; thus settling for jobs that are different from their previous homeland employment.
As for most states, the cost of living changes from city to city, which can also be said for country to country. Ino Loloci, an immigrant, noted that the major difference between living in Greensboro and his homeland is the ownership of homes. He said, “In my home country, you or your family owns the house you live in… Here you pay rent or mortgage.” He later went on to say, “Homes in the north of the United States seem to cost more than homes in the South. Down here, it is easy to have a job that is enough to cover the living expenses and save a little bit of money too.”
Another difference stated by the immigrant above is that of climate and building materials. Temperature and precipitation change from country to country and also have an impact on a building’s design and structure. An example of this may be seen in areas with more tropical climates, where there are open-air structures without screen or glass enclosures. Most of these structures are made of local stone and clay. Open-air structures are usually made of these materials because they act as great insulators, allowing hot days to feel cooler, and vice versa. In contrast, Greensboro endures all four seasons causing the structures to be enclosed. Common materials used here are steel, concrete and wood. These materials are more readily available and can resist weather elements.
This difference in housing form and structure alters the way inhabitants choose to live their life. One Mexican man stated that homes in Mexico usually had large front lawns and porches that would invite neighbors and family into the home. But here in America homes tend to appear smaller on the outside and larger on the interior. Another anxiety for the immigrants are screened in windows. Because of North Carolina’s marshy wetlands and ever changing seasons, homes have to have screens and glass windows to keep mosquitoes, vermin, and other pests out. However, the psychological affect of having screened windows can and has caused individuals to feel trapped and less connected to the outdoor elements.
Immigrants choose to move to this area in search of the American dream. They have more opportunity here for jobs and education. The transition from their homeland to the U.S. is hard, but they find their lives improved. This causes them to stay and invest their lives and families into this country. Their homes here are usually very different but they learn to adapt their needs to these new spaces.
Shultz, B.. (2008). Inside the Gilded Cage: The Lives of Latino Immigrant Males in Rural Central Kentucky. Southeastern Geographer, 48(2), 201-218. Retrieved February 16, 2010, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1590598701
BUCHANAN, SUZANNE STAR, M.S. Adaptations of Home: Mexican, Montagnard and Sudanese Immigrants’ Use of Space in Greensboro, NC. (2007) Directed by Dr. Patrick Lee Lucas. 85 pp.