On Their Own?: Mexican Immigrants' Assistance by Government, NGOs, and Self-Help at Times of Natural Disaster in Wimauma, Florida
Scott, Nancy Raylene
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During the 2004 hurricane season, four successive storms struck Central Florida causing catastrophic damage to crops and displacing close to 195,000 migrant and seasonal workers. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, this thesis examines how government agencies and NGOs respond to such natural disasters by reaching out to Latino immigrant workers and families in Wimauma, Florida, and the diverse ways in which the immigrant community itself organized to confront the needs and problems brought about by these disasters. I pay particular attention to the role of Mexican immigrants’ kinship and social networks in developing adaptive strategies during times of stress and to how class and gender differences shape these strategies. Also, I examine how immigrants respond to programs implemented by government agencies and NGOs. Scarce resources, lack of cultural sensitivity, and underutilization of the cultural and social resources of the Latino immigrant community represent important obstacles for the effective implementation of government aid programs. Meanwhile, NGOs that were embedded in the social structure and networks of the local Latino community and those that relied on the key role women play as community builders proved to be more successful. This study seeks to contribute and to enlighten public policies that aid Latino immigrant communities in times of natural disasters.