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Hometown associations (HTAs), also known as hometown societies, are social alliances that are formed among immigrants from the same city or region of origin. Their goal is to maintain connections with and provide mutual aid to immigrants from a shared place of origin. They may also aim to produce a new sense of transnational community and identity rooted in the migrants' country of origin, extending to the country of settlement.
The total number of HTAs is difficult to measure as they fluctuate in number every year. The United States is home to approximately 3,000 Mexican HTAs, 1,000 Filipino groups, and other ethnic migrants such as Ghanaian amount to about 500 organizations. The larger HTAs have official nonprofit statuses, such as 501(c)(3) registration within the United States, and have a board of directors and elected leaders. The majority of HTAs are small with predominantly working-class membership, limiting their activities to fundraising for ongoing programs or special needs, such as a natural disaster in the home country, and the advancement of health or educational activities and resources.
HTAs also serve to donate money for special occasions or circumstances, such as a religious celebration or to repaint or repair a local church in either their new community or in their place of origin. The percentage of remittance (money sent by migrants to their home country) varies. Often, HTAs coordinate with local organizations within their community of origin to put projects into practice. For example, in Guyana, the most common local partners are local non-profits and churches.
Because HTAs are volunteer-based groups, getting participation outside one's family ties can be a major challenge. People who migrated from common hometowns who appreciate the public goods that HTAs produce tend to believe that the collective benefit outweighs the individual cost of contributing. The challenge of confronting the cost and benefit of HTA investments results in the involvement in associations being low and sporadic.
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A hometown association or hometown society is a society of immigrants from the same town or region. These aid organizations were established to deal with social, economic, and cultural problems, and provided a social framework for mutual assistance. Among the most common activities was the provision of insurance policies offering sick benefits and burial cost. They regularly owned sections in cemeteries. In the early 1900s, there were thousands of Hometown societies in the United States serving every immigrant ethnic group. Jewish hometown societies were known by the Yiddish term landsmanshaft. There were 20,000 landsmanshaftn in the Northeast US.
Chinese hometown associations
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Chinese hometown associations (Chinese: 同鄉會) exist both within China and abroad in the wider Chinese diaspora. Within China these societies exist (and historically existed) to serve itinerant workers and merchants in the face of regional discrimination against those from other provinces. Networks of these societies formed to provide mutual aid to those from the same hometown, for example renting a room or compound (depending on means) to temporarily house newcomers, those unable to work through injury, and merchant caravans. They also served as burial clubs to repatriate the remains of those who had died to their hometowns for burial. In the face of violence from locals, and members of other associations, the societies acted to provide mutual defense.
Often composed of young men on the margins of local mainstream society, some societies devolved into little more than gangs and fronts for gambling and other vices; for example in Qing dynasty Beijing, the Cantonese societies became notorious for their revolutionary behavior. This pattern became a template for societies that formed outside of China (for example in Australia, Nanyang and the United States). Regional allegiances and rivalries continued abroad, often with the same violent confrontations.
The majority of Chinese laborers who originally went abroad in the 19th century never intended to settle, but to serve out their indentures and earn money to go home, or failing that to have their bodies sent back. However, when they did settle, one concern became maintaining the Chinese identity of their children and descendants. This was done through the construction of joss houses and the organization of schools to teach the Chinese language (usually the hometown dialect), writing, history and culture.
HTAs in the United States
Kinship networks focused on the Latino community first began in the early 20th century. They arose because of the increasing use of migratory labor during that period. Mexican HTAs in the United States grew out of the historical mutual aid societies and welfare organizations created in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in order to provide health care and death benefits at a time when such services were unavailable for many immigrant groups.
Contemporary Mexican HTAs have their roots in mutual-benefit associations that were active in the first decade of the twentieth century in the agricultural areas of California. Such associations were rooted in common origins and provided a base of solidarity when newcomers faced the difficulties of social integration.
Although Mexican HTAs have the longest history and are the best-known, there has been an increase in the number of Dominican, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran hometown associations. These have been formed from the 1990s and are actively participating in the improvement of their communities of origin and of residence.
Like Mexican-Americans and Dominican-Americans, Central Americans also participate in a growing number of hometown associations. There are an estimated 164 Guatemalan HTAs in the United States. Most of these have been focused on responding to the numerous natural disasters that have hit Guatemala since 1991. There are an estimated 200 Salvadoran HTAs, most of which focus on assisting a single town and hold dinners, pageants, and other events to raise funds for community-based development projects. Scholars argue that HTAs are important not only because of their contributions to local development but also because they help to foster and support positive ethnic-racial identities among immigrant communities in the US.
Mexican and Mexican-American HTAs
The migration flows and long-term economic connections between the United States and Mexico have led to the growth of transnational political organizing within Mexican immigrant communities. Although these kinds of organizations have existed in Mexican communities since the 1950s, the numbers have expanded dramatically between 1980 and 2000. As of 2003,[update] there were well over 600 Mexican hometown clubs and associations registered in 30 cities throughout the United States. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that Mexicans send about $20 billion in remittances to Mexico in 2009, which makes remittances one of Mexico's top three sources of foreign exchange.
The majority of hometown associations are relatively new and concentrated mainly in four states: California, New York, Texas, and Florida. Approximately two-thirds (63%) of Latino HTAs rely on donations. Although the total number of Latino hometown associations is unmeasured, there are about 4,000 HTAs that have received legal status in accordance with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) during the 1990s.
According to the IRS, among the HTAs that have formalized their status for tax purposes, about 62% operate on less than $25,000 per year, another 14% on $25,000–99,999, and 23% on $100,000 or more. The majority of Latino associations have an inside-view of Latino problems and possible solutions, and they have a special role in identifying community needs.
HTAs have attempted to influence public policy. According to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, a study of 176 associations of Colombian, Dominican, Salvadoran, or Guatemalan origin found that these groups deal with a wide range of issues including housing, healthcare, education and jobs. Since the late 1980s, Latino hometown associations have primarily served local Latino-American communities.
Raising money for improvements in their hometowns has long been a key organizing strategy, originally in cooperation with either the hometown church or local authorities. This took on a new character in towns like Zacatecas, where the state government began matching the funds provided by the migrants for a number of projects in the late 1980s. This funds-matching program is an example of how migrant interaction with Mexican policy produced migrant activism, bi-national migrant 'civil society' and migrant leadership networks in the 1990s.
Transnational sociopolitical influence
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In the 2010s, policy and political academia are seeing hometown associations as a phenomenon of vital import in sociopolitical influences and financial gain in countries of origin. Concerning the interest of the political world is the rapidly emerging awareness of immigrant remittances and their impact on developing countries.
Kinship networks were the first to emerge and facilitate the Mexican diaspora that has prevailed in the US since the early twentieth century. As further development of HTAs continued, there was an increase in "Mexicanist" mutual aid societies and other organizations, in contrast with the Hispanic and 'Latino' formations such as the AHA[expand acronym] and the Mexican-American forerunners of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
Nevertheless, due to the new political challenges that arose in the late twentieth century, the Mexican government devised methods of encouraging the non-political organization of Mexican immigrant communities. In particular, Mexico utilized its consulates and the Program for Mexican Communities Abroad (PCME), established under the Salinas administration in 1990. The Mexican government, acting through its consulates in the US and Canada, boosted the development of the PCME. The consulates have long-provided a number of important services to the immigrant population, including the consular identification card known as the Matrícula Consular.
Mexican consulates in the US increased their support of Mexican immigrant associations in the 1990s and sponsored the creation of new ones, often utilizing visits by hometown mayors (presidentes municipal) to convent[spelling?] migrants of common origin and encourage them to organize themselves. The Mexican government has persistently acted to encourage the development of the diaspora network in a manner that has set the standard for transnational cooperation. Consequently, this policy has evolved over a dozen years: from fostering the organization of hometown associations to sponsoring the creation of a continental assembly for the integration and strategic direction of the Mexican network and its linkage to the state.
HTAs have played a major component in institutionalizing programs to help serve the Mexican-American community in relation to the Mexican government, such as the creation of the Institute for Mexicans Abroad (Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior, IME) in 2002. The Mexican HTAs – while powerful forces for social support in the United States, and political empowerment and philanthropy in Mexico – have had little involvement in political activity in California. Their active mobilization during the fight against California Proposition 187 was an exception to their usual mode of behavior, rather than a turning point in their orientation.
Despite the prevailing anti-immigrant sentiment in California during the 1990s, HTAs have not played a significant role in developing a collective response to attacks on Mexican or Latino immigrants. When there is a longer history of community organizing for ornamental[clarification needed] works and other actions for the well-being of the community, an HTA becomes not only a space where migrants can preserve their hometown culture but also a vehicle to channel claims and demands on the state of origin.
- Hometown associations at diasporaalliance.org
- hometown associations, global perspectives
- "Migrant Hometown Associations and Opportunities for Development: A Global Perspective" by Manuel Orozco, Rebecca Rouse (Migration Policy Institute).
- Roger Waldinger, Eric Popkin, Hector Aquiles Magana. "Conflict and Contestation in the Cross-Border Community: Hometown Associations Reassessed". Ethnic and Racial Studies. Vol. 31, No. 5 (July 2008). pp. 843-870.
- To the golden cities: pursuing the American Jewish dream in Miami and L.A., Deborah Dash Moore, Simon and Schuster, 1994, p. 268
- Filipino Hometown Associations in Hawaii, Jonathan Y. Okamura, Ethnology, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Oct., 1983), pp. 341-353
- "With Demise of Jewish Burial Societies, Resting Places Are in Turmoil," The New York Times, Aug. 3, 2009 https://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/03/nyregion/03bury.html
- Xochitl Bada. "The Sixth Section: Mexican Hometown Associations". Citizen Action in the Americas. Americas Program, Interhemispheric Resource Center. 2003. Also available at http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/1179
- Congressional Budget Office
- Orozco, Manuel. Sending Money Home: Hispanic Remittances and Community Development. p. 86. 2002.
- Smith, Bradford. Philanthropy in Communities of Color. p. 87.
- "Mexican Immigrants in New York City: Profiles of a Migration" (conference), Bronx Institute of Lehman College, New York City, October 20, 2006.
- Transnational Networks in the Hurricane Basin by Centro de Estudios y Programas Interamericanos
- From public works to political actions: Political socialization in Guerrero hometown organizations by Judith Boruchoff