Mapping Dominican transnationalism: narrow and broad transnational practices

José Itzigsohn, Carlos Dore Cabral, Esther Herná ndez Medina and Obed V á zquez
This article maps the structure for understanding the Dominican transnational eld. By transnational eld we refer to a web of linkages that affects the lives of Dominicans in their places of residence in every social eld. We nd that social boundaries of the nation do not coincide with political ones and the degree of participation in transnational exchanges varies. We suggest that the structure of the transnational social eld is better understood by establishing and de ning broad and narrow transnational social practices . Keywords: Transnationalism; immigration; Dominicans; linkages; institutions; communities.

While standing in line to check in for a ight to Santo Domingo, one of the authors was approached by a woman who asked if he could carry a bag for her. The airline claimed she was carrying too much baggag e already, but she needed to take everything with her because she had a little shop in Santo Domingo and these were goods to stock it. Everyone ying to Santo Domingo has stood in the long lines of people carrying many large bags. Some of the people make these trips in a periodic way as a form of living, but for most, the many bags are the norm as part of their annual homecomings. These bags contain many gifts for their family, goods to sell which help nance their trip, items for the houses they are building in the Dominican Republic, or a combination of all three. These recurrent airport scenes are one expression of the strong links that unite the island and its diaspora. The links, are not, however, only personal or economic. The Dominican congress currently has a representative of the Dominican community in New York. He was elected according to current laws, appearing in the lists of representatives of a

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Mapping Dominican transnationalism


Dominican city. But debates in the Dominican Republic over the extension of the right to vote for Dominicans abroad are far from settled. These examples illustrate an existing Dominican transnational social eld. This transnational social eld can be thought of as a eld of social interactions and exchanges that transcend political and geographica l boundaries of one nation and have become the relevant eld of action and reference for a large number of Dominicans in their country of origin and in the broad diaspora that it has generated. Many Dominicans have a deep involvement in these links and exchanges, whereas others participate in them only occasionally. Some members of this transnational community engage in economic exchanges; some are part of its political links, others only experience the transnational eld in a symbolic way, as part of their space of meaningful references. Nevertheless, few Dominicans are untouched by the existence of this transnational eld of social relations. The goal of this article is to contribute to our understanding of the structure and workings of this transnational social field through the analysis of the dynamics of Dominican transnationalism. Throughout this essay we attempt to map out the different linkages that pattern this community. We propose to distinguish between ‘narrow’ and ‘broad’ forms of transnationality as two poles along a continuum of different forms of transnational practices. These poles are distinguished by three factors: the degree of institutionalization of various practices, the degree of involvement of people in the transnational field, and the degree of movement of people within the transnational geograph ical space. Expanding the boundaries of the nation Until recently, studies of immigrant communities were focused mainly on the processes of incorporation and acculturation of immigrants, and limited to the ethnic communities they created in the host societies. The concept of transnational social elds arises to describe immigrant communities that do not delink themselves from their home country; instead, they keep and nourish their linkages to their place of origin. This is not an unheard of phenomenon, nor a new one, but progress in communication and transportation technologie s have allowed for an increasing intensity and immediacy to those linkages (Portes 1996). The emergence of transnation al social elds challenges the accepted boundaries in the study of political participation, social mobility and identity formation as these processes take place across national boundaries rather than within them. The current work on transnationalism was given impulse by the pioneering work of Glick Schiller, Basch and Blanc-Szanton (1992). They de ned transnationalism ‘as the processes by which immigrants forge and

1998) explored the linkages between the town of Ticuani. Alejandro Portes (1996) provides another look at this phenomenon. immigrants use their social relations from their place of origin and their place of migration to build economic enterprises that operate across borders. to their political behaviour. Migration and transnation alism among Dominicans Throughout its history. During the 1990s Dominicans ranked in the top ve nationalities in the number of immigrants admitted. the Caribbean Basin has witnessed constant migration ows. such as Mexico. Transnational activities constitute a form of grass-roots alternative to the debasement of immigrant labour in the centre of the world system. caused a large transformation in Dominican society. to their individual and group identities. following countries with much larger populations. transnationalism is focused mainly on economic activities.318 José Itzigsohn et al. For Portes. sustain multi-stranded social relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement’ (Basch. during the 1980s Dominicans ranked seventh in the number of people admitted to the United States (251. indicating how the organization of the movement of people is superimposed on existing networks for the movement of goods between Ecuador and the United China and Vietnam (http://www. According to the Immigration and Naturalization Service [INS]. The large size of the migration ows. The work of other scholars has added to the conceptualization and understanding of transnational communities. A central characteristic of these enterprises is that their existence is dependent on the continuation of the transnational linkage. in the Mexican state of Puebla. Smith (1994. In the last three decades. Kyle (1995) studied the migration networks between Ecuadorians in New York and several Ecuadorian towns. however. The transnational social eld is constructed through the daily life and activity of immigrants affecting all aspects of their life. but geographica lly split between Mexico and the United States. p. Confronted with low-paid dead-end jobs. and Blanc-Szanton. and the migrants from this town who live in New York City. and the relatively short period of time in which they occurred. 1994. and until the 1960s the Dominican Republic was mainly an immigrant receiving country. the Philippines.ins.803). 7) Transnationalism is a product of the present conditions of global capitalism and the type of relations between labour and capital that it generates. organized along the lines of traditional social organization and communal obligations. Smith shows the construction of a close-knit community. making the Dominican case a paradigmatic one for the study . Glick Schiller. the Dominican Republic has become one of the main emigration countries in the Caribbean Basin and in Latin America in general. from their economic opportunities.

documenting the changes in the characteristics of this migration. is New York City. Duany (1994) analyses the cultural aspects of Dominican transnationality. Guarnizo (1992. sometimes in a formal and sometimes in an informal way. The main centre of Dominican migration. part of which owes its existence to its constant travel between the Dominican Republic and the United States. Graham (1997) makes the connections between transnational and local political participation . Migration was perceived as a strategy of the rural and urban poor in search of economic advancement. are an indication of the growing consciousness about the transnational phenomenon. showing how immigrants recreate Dominican life in New York City while they also incorporate elements of American culture to their cultural repertories. Guarnizo’s most recent work (1998) focuses on the forms of political participation of transmigrants and on state responses to the rise of transnational communities. however. Del Castillo & Murphy 1987). Dominican migrants are found all over the world. This entrepreneurial class uses its social networks to gain information and contacts that allow it to conduct business between the two countries. The study of Grassmuck and Pessar (1991) on two communities in the Dominican Republic (one urban and one rural) and its emigrated members in New York City. particularly in New York City. The work of Portes and Guarnizo (1991) initiated a series of studies on this topic. Several case-studies of rural communities in the Dominican Republic looked for factors that motivated the migration ow and its social and economic impact (Hendricks 1974. 1994) wrote on Dominican entrepreneurs in New York and on the binational character of the New York Dominican community. 1985) on the gender dynamic of migrant households and the work of Georges (1988) on Dominican associations in New York City. from Antigua to Madrid. and that of Georges (1990) on the effects of migration on a rural community.1 It is in the current stage of the study of Dominican migration that we see a focus on transnationality. from Caracas to Alaska. These studies began to look at the Dominican community as an ethnic enclave. These included the work of Gurak and Kritz (1982) analysing the role of kinship networks. The scholarly literature on Dominican migration can be divided into three stages.Mapping Dominican transnationalism 319 of the rise of transnation alism. with a certain degree of internal social strati cation. Several scholars have studied different aspects of Dominican transnationalism. This work shows the emergence of an entrepreneu rial class. During this stage we also begin to see studies covering Dominicans on the island and the continent. Bray 1984. The rst stage occurs during the 1970s and early 1980s when the Dominican Republic was a model for the study of migration as labour ows. that of Pessar (1984. The 1980s brought a new stage in the study of Dominican migration distinguished by the study of the characteristics of the Dominican community in the United States.

partly due to the lack of empirical data. and is the second largest ‘Dominican’ city after Santo Domingo. The consolidation of competitive politics during the 1980s and 1990s generated a need for political fundraising. New York City and Providence. We selected two locations in the United States to achieve a broad view of the existing transnational practices. New York City was chosen because it has the largest concentration of Dominicans abroad. Levitt (1997. 1998) analyses organizational and value changes in Dominican community. many questions remain unanswered. capital of the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless. The increasing interest in Dominican transnationality is the result of the changes experienced by the Dominican diaspora. Graham’s (1997) informants estimate that fundraising in the United States provides between 10 and 15 per cent of Dominican parties’ campaign funds.320 José Itzigsohn et al. Rhode Island. and in Santo Domingo. The goal of this phase was to explore the different practices that sustain the transnational social eld. or does it also include the people that remain in the home country? Finally. or are all the people involved in a broad social eld? Does transnationality refer mainly to a diaspora condition. migrant remittances have become one of the main sources of hard currency of the island (Itzigsohn 1995). Is transnationalism mainly an economic phenomenon. Table 1 presents a description of our interviewee s. Dominicans abroad became an important source of nance for Dominican political parties. and partly because the conceptualization of transnational communities needs to be tightened. In addition. is there any spatial centre or order in this transnational community? Searching for a transnational social eld This study is part of the rst phase of a larger comparative study of transnational communities. political. This diaspora grew exponentiall y during the 1980s. For this purpose we conducted a total of eighty-three interviews with key informants in two locations in the United States. or is it a social eld that affects all aspects of life. focusing on the parallel struggle by Dominican organizations that lobbied for the legislation of double citizenship by the Dominican government and the creation of a Dominican district in New York City council elections. among Dominicans in New York City. the capital city of . and religious organizations and institutions as a result of their expansion over national boundaries. such as group and individual identities and symbolic practices? Are transnational migrants only those involved in continuous dealings between the two countries. The studies mentioned above have no doubt greatly increased our understanding of Dominican transnation ality. and has developed a certain degree of social differentiation and institutional density that accounts for the rise of transnational connections (Guarnizo 1994).

Glick Schiller. the trend has been towards the deconcentration of the population. We selected the informants by looking for people with a central position and a broad knowledge of the community. and suggesting paths for further research. Table 2 presents an overview of the evolution of the Dominican population in New York City and Providence. Most of the respondents in the United States were rst-generation immigrants with the exception of two cases who were second-gene ration Dominicans. The interviews were semi-structured and followed an interview guide that served to direct the conversation. In the Dominican Republic the majority of the interviews were conducted in Santo Domingo. and Szanton-Blanc (1994) are more inclusive. Portes (1996) includes only those people engaged in recurrent binationa l dealings and focuses mainly on economic aspects. There are currently two main answers to this question. While New York City has by far the largest concentration of Dominican immigrants. However. The research design and the analysis are qualitative. and we followed a series of snowball-chains after that. is one of several places of secondary migration for Dominicans. where the Dominican community is playing an increasingly important role in city life. pointing to trends in transnational practices. our interviews were restricted to the area of Washington Heights in upper Manhattan where the largest concentration of Dominicans is located. The study of Providence allows us to look at the increasingly growing phenomenon of residential deconcentration among Dominicans. with the exception of two interviews that took place in Santiago. Providence. Breakdown of interviews with key informants by place and gender 321 –––––––––––––––––––––––––––– New York 22 10 Providence 19 3 Men Women United States Dominican Republic 23 7 the Dominican Republic. We selected the rst informants based on our knowledge of the communities. Towards a comprehensive understanding of Dominican transnational practices One of the main problems in our understanding of transnational communities is who to include and what type of practice should be considered transnational. Dominicans have settled in every borough of New York City. Six of the interviews in the Dominican Republic were with NorthAmericans linked to different US institutions in the country. Basch. including . RI.Mapping Dominican transnationalism Table 1.

Selected demographic data for Dominicans in Providence.90% 5.12% 52. Recalling the long lines at the airports.409 21.901 25.612 70.361 29.70% 1.70% 85. 1985 Rhode Island 1990 All Dominicans Native Born % of all Dominicans Born in State of Residence % of all Dominicans Born in Different State % of all Dominicans Foreign Born % of all Dominicans Naturalized % of all Dominicans Not a Citizen % of all Dominicans 1985 Mobility All Dominicans (5 yrs and older) Same State Different State Abroad Source : 1990 Census Providence Manhattan New York City 332.27% 24.73% 34.791 72.905 27.51% 1.64% 237.025 78.307 17. from macro processes of national developmen t.356 1.86% 19.40% 1.70% 1. because it focuses on one of the most innovative and dynamic phenomena: the rise of transnational enterprises.23 3 100% 103.266 15.374 100% 2. It has limitations.492 28.90% 1. This new form of entrepreneu rship affects a large number of social processes. .45 5 81. travel only once or twice a year to the Dominican Republic.346 54.067 0.63% in the transnational eld everyday social practices that affect a range from economic opportunities to the choice of identities .40% 1.072 11.139 0. but it is a regular and recurrent practice.422 15.60% 1.940 31.244 15.90% 136.841 25. Portes’ understanding of transnationalism is very important.48% 98. Most of the people in line.40% 6. These would be transnation al entrepreneurs according to Portes.49% 124. to the options for social mobility open to individuals.74 4 83.30% 7.976 18.221 71.973 100% 2.71 3 100% 95.63% 9.80% 4.853 54.861 22.245 52.29% 3. Rhode Island and New York City.60% 931 11. 1990.484 54.715 20.322 José Itzigsohn et al.48 2 100% 243.30% 1.60% 1.80% 2.906 26.30% 60.324 18.33% 176.799 17. It is not their way of making a living.50% 7.60% 5.333 100% 4.10% 8.50% 1.083 100% 3.481 53.69 6 100% 37.434 68. or both. but every time they travel they carry those large and heavy bags lled with gifts or goods to sell. Table 2. only a few of the people waiting there engage in recurrent travelling to supply their businesses.78% 74. however.53% 654 0. since it leaves out relevant practices that should be considered transnational. however.97% 299.868 19.

and movement – de nes its own continuum. We want to consider narrow and broad transnational practices as two poles of a continuum de ned by the degree of institutionalization. creating three parallel continua. Transnationality in a ‘broad’ sense refers to a series of material and symbolic practices in which people engage that involve only sporadic physical movement between the two countries. transnational practices are at the narrow end of the continuum in all three of these dimensions. those who move every so often. Table 3 illustrates this idea. it is enough for a transnational activity to be narrow along two of these three dimensions to be considered a form of narrow transnationality. In fact. but this transnational eld should be further speci ed. political. The economic and everyday-pra ctices perspectives are not necessarily in opposition. as will be shown below. Mahler (1998) points to the need for mapping transnational practices and suggests a differentiation between those who move frequently. Transnationality in a ‘narrow’ sense refers to those people involved in economic. For our conceptualization. In many cases. After all. there is a difference between those who engage in constant travel and business in both countries and those who see themselves as Dominicans in the United States and long for the homeland that they may never have seen. involvement. from being too unspeci ed. or cultural practices that involve a regular movement within the geographic transnation al eld. Dimensions of narrow and broad transnationality Narrow High Constant Regular Transnational practice s Institutionalizatio n Participation Movement Broad Low Occasional Sporadic . though. It suffers. some transnational practices can be considered narrow only on one or two of the classi catory dimensions. Nevertheless. or constant personal involvement. or the degree of involvement in transnational activities. but we argue that there are also examples of transTable 3. but nevertheless includes both countries as reference points. Table 4 maps transnation al activities and illustrates both narrow and broad forms of transnationality. degree of movement within the transnational eld. and those whose lives take place within a transnational eld. a high level of institutionalization. We believe that both are part of a transnational eld. a low level of institutionalization.Mapping Dominican transnationalism 323 The understanding of Basch et al. each of these dimensions – institutionalization. or just occasional personal involvement. helps us to include a number of practices under the transnational label. We want to pursue Mahler’s suggestion and propose to differentiate between ‘narrow’ and ‘broad’ transnational practices. The examples refer to activities in the United States. social.

324 José Itzigsohn et al. It would be a mistake. such as the formation of identities. This student. Our use of ‘civil-societal’ covers those community practices – in the religious. we shall maintain this division. tastes and values. to think about economic transnational practices as purely market oriented. This is not an exhaustive table. for our analytical purpose we shall classify activities according to their main goal. political. Consider the case of a Dominican student in an American university: ‘The head is here. we refer to symbolic practices. is fundraising for a political party a political or an economic practice? Indeed. who was born in the United States. We divide Dominican transnational practices into four categories: economic. Her everyday life takes place in the . are indivisible from civil society. the clarity of our analysis will bene t from this division. for the sake of analytical clarity. for example. This avoids labelling these practices as merely social. Finally. civil-societal and cultural practices. Nevertheless. Thus. Transnational economic practices are embedded in complex transnation al social and political networks and. For example. The divisions are. Nevertheless. such that fundraising for a political party will be considered a political activity. however. the same people often engaged in transnational activities are included under different categories. or mutual-help elds – that are not mainly political or market oriented. sometimes arbitrary. at times. she claims. and then position these within our analytical scheme. Yet she claims in the same breath that it is only in the Dominican Republic that she feels at home. by cultural practices. Narrow and broad transnationality among Dominicans Transnationality activity Economic Political Civil-Societal Cultural Narrow Transnational rms Membership in Dominican political parties in the US Membership in Town Committees Participating in Dominican cultural production from the US Broad Carrying bags full of merchandise on occasional trips Participating in electora l meetings in the US Participating in occasional bene t activities for the Dominican Republic De ning oneself as part of Dominican diaspora Note: The examples in each cell are illustrations of the kind of practices we have in mind. since political and economic practices are certainly social practices. Table 4. as such. but the heart is there’. sports. hopes to pursue a political career there and argues that she could not live in the Dominican Republic because she is too accustomed to the ways things are done in the US. nationalism in the Dominican Republic.

most of the investments by transmigrants are concentrated in supermarkets and colmados (small neighbourh ood grocery stores similar to New York ‘bodegas’). laundries. In some cases these transnational rms involve regular movement between the two countries. This research rejected the idea that the only economic contribution of emigrants is their remittances and that those are used only for consumption purposes. The most thorough study so far is the work of Portes and Guarnizo (1991). She is part of broad transnational space. instead of receiving money receive consumption goods such as ovens or washing machines. A new form of business link is between remittances companies and commercial rms.Mapping Dominican transnationalism 325 United States but her identity. which are managed by relatives. Economic transnationality Narrow economic transnationalism: This category includes immigrants who have businesses in the United States and also invest in the Dominican Republic and Dominican rms that branch out to the United States. In the retail sector. Our interviews in the Dominican Republic revealed that our informants are well aware of the presence of emigrant-created rms. but the latter. and the eld of relevant symbolic references. This arrangement allows Dominicans in the United States to send remittances to their relatives. The picture we received in our interviews in the United States concerning the investment areas of transnational rms is similar to what we encountered in the Dominican Republic. pointing out that most of these rms are in the service. Two of our informants were engaged in narrow economic transnational activities. These examples of narrow economic transnational practices are characterized by a high degree of institutionalization and constant involvement in businesses in both places. In many instances the administration of businesses in one of the two countries is . There is also some investment in construction rms. retail sectors. while he lives and operates an insurance business in Santiago. According to our informants. The other informant owns a nancial and insurance investment company on Wall Street and owns a C-town Supermarket in Manhattan. but this is not always the case. but does not take part in the narrow transnational activities that sustain and fuel it. small loan and investment rms called nancieras. The manager of an of ce of a large remittance agency told us that the owners of the agency have businesses in Santo Domingo and have opened the agency as a way of obtaining hard currency. includes the Dominican Republic in a very meaningful way. the main types of migration linked businesses in the service sector are moving and remittances companies. car-repair shops and carwash businesses. These researchers uncovered in the Dominican Republic the presence of a large number of small and medium rms linked to migration.

Dominican sweets and even traditional medicines and local brands of over-thecounter drugs that people are familiar with. which helps sustain the transnational Dominican cultural eld. these traders carry mainly non-durable consumer goods such as clothes (new and used). Most of our informants in the Dominican Republic claimed to know personally one or more of these informal transnational traders. Traders sell these goods in markets all around the Dominican Republic. and in the case of the larger formal rms. We do not know the contribution of this type of investment to the Dominican GDP. we can nd people conducting the same type of trade between the Dominican Republic and several islands of the Caribbean. there are no data on the extension and importance of this sector. Indeed. nor do we know how many of the Dominican business people in the United States also engage in transnational investment. From the United States. Dominican business people are not engaged in transnational rms of the type described above. An example of this kind of trade is the case of the woman we met at the beginning of this article who travels back and forth to stock her business. although they may very well engage in broad economic transnational practices. Their economic advantage comes from the non-payment of custom taxes. to professional managers . However. The goods brought to the United States are consumer goods. boutiques. restaurants. the frequency of these trips is between once a month and once in three months. According to our informants. There is also a large informal transnational trade. typically Dominican products. and the fact that what is traded on the American end are culturally de ned ‘Dominican’ goods. remittance agencies and legal and tax service agencies. sausages.326 José Itzigsohn et al. such as Dominican rum. . or to employment creation. beauty-parlours. Most of the Dominican businesses we encountered both in New York City and Providence are small businesses in the service sector: bodegas. shoes and jewelry. There are also a number of people who make a living out of travelling back and forth selling goods both in the Dominican Republic and the United States. Transnational businesses are not limited to well-established formal rms. but these practices show a low degree of institutionalization. car-repair shops. What is particular about our cases is the large volume of the trade. It is important to note that this itinerant trade is not a new phenomenon in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean. What characterizes these informal narrow transnational economic practices is a constant personal involvement and regular movement within the transnational space. delegated to family members. Many of our informants argued that besides the remittances and moving agencies. Our interviews revealed the existence of a considerable segment of transnational rms in a narrow sense which concurs with the research of Portes and Guarnizo (1991).

Perhaps the most distinct case is that of the remittances sent home by immigrants. but do not involve regular movement or constant involvement between the two places. because Dominicans abroad are always present by means of the remittances they send which are indispensable for the economic survival of the country. This is done by almost all Dominicans who travel. or it might be to sell and help nance the trip and even make some pro t. Consul Bienvenido Perez argued that Dominican immigrants should not be called ‘absent Dominicans’(Dominicanos ausentes ). The words of the Dominican Consul in New York in a celebration of the Dominican independen ce day in Providence highlight the importance of remittances in the structure of the Dominican transnational eld. and also non-durable consumer goods such as clothing and footwear. according to the Consul. and according to our interviews. Commonly found in households. sometimes it is for the family to sell and in this way help the family economy. By carrying or sending consumer goods from abroad to the island. it is popular to send cars and computers. transmigrants provide the low-income sectors with access to consumer goods that these sectors could not buy with their local income. but in all his years in the United States he has been a factory worker. These have become the second main source of hard currency for the Dominican Republic. most Dominicans in the United States travel rather regularly to the island. The merchandise. these goods are one of the main contributions that Dominicans abroad have made to the standard of living of their relatives and friends. or small businesses that are tended to by family or friends. tracts of land. or maintained idle waiting for their owners to return. however. but to have some assets for an eventual retirement home. Prominent among these are durable consumer goods. Another form of broad economic transnationality is carrying bags full of merchandise on trips to the Dominican Republic. Many of our informants have houses. has different purposes: sometimes it consists of gifts for the family. but ‘Dominicanos abroad’ ( Dominicanos en el exterior). Whether Juan will retire in the Dominican Republic .Mapping Dominican transnationalism 327 Broad economic transnationalism: Broad economic transactions are those that are more or less recurrent. Among the middle classes. currently kept by his father. Nevertheless. as they often are. video cameras and video games. such as TVs. The goal of Juan’s investment is not to make a living out of his investment. Dominican transmigrants also invest in building houses or buying businesses as a form of building assets for eventual retirement. who has lived fteen years in Providence. Juan had some university training when he migrated. Consider the case of Juan. Juan has also bought a number of cows. Juan has saved enough money to buy land near his home town in the Dominican Republic. This was so. and a necessary source of income for a large number of people (Itzigsohn 1995). VCRs.

searching for political support and participating in fundraisers. Dominicans in the United States are a very important source of funding for political parties. is an open question. when a Dominican from the United States goes back home. and to strengthening the Dominicanness of transmigrants. though. One difference between these investments and those included in the ‘narrow’ category is on the future orientation of these ‘broad’ economic transnational transactions. The main activities of these parties are fundraising meetings. having an effect also on immediate subsistence. Indeed. he (in this case the informant referred to men) has money to invite .328 José Itzigsohn et al. the late José F. The presence of the PRSC. activities increase and a great number of campaign meetings take place. current president Leonel Fernandez and PRD candidate. The rst two parties have of ces in New York and Providence. Graham (1997) estimates that between 10 and 15 per cent of the campaign funds is raised in the United States. Partido Revolucionario Dominicano [PRD – Dominican Revolutionary Party]. During election periods. has diminished after they were forced out of government. the largest opposition party. and the party of former president Joaquin Balaguer. Partido Reformista Social Cristiano [PRSC – Social Christian Reformist Party]. Political transnationality Narrow political transnationalis m: Narrow political transnationalism can best be seen in membership and activism in Dominican political parties which have branches in US cities where there is a Dominican presence. The goal of these broad investments is not necessarily immediate subsistence but old-age insurance – although they often create sources of livelihood for people in the Dominican Republic. Our informants did not provide a speci c percentage. Dominican politicians argue that the opinions of Dominican transmigrants are important in in uencing the voting decisions of Dominicans on the island. Peña Gómez. Both main candidates in the 1996 presidential election. The most visible political organizations are the three largest Dominican parties: the governing Partido de Liberacion Dominicana [PLD – Dominican Liberation Party]. Another difference is that broad transnational economic practices also have symbolic meanings. According to this informant. so much so. that we did not nd an of ce of the party in New York or Providence. The fact is that the desire to return leads a large number to invest money in businesses and real estate in the Dominican Republic. but stressed that the Dominican community in the United States is a very important source of funds. One prominent politician we interviewed argued that this is because many Dominicans in the Dominican Republic believe that Dominicans in the United States are better informed. They contribute to sustaining the emotional linkage between Dominicans abroad and in the Dominican Republic. conducted campaigns in New York and Providence.

Thi s competition will certainly increase if the current debates on the right to vote for Dominicans abroad leads to favourable constitutional changes. Dominicans who may otherwise not be very involved in the Dominican political scene become passionate supporters or opponents of particular candidates. that opinion carries great weight. Parties compete for funds and support in New York and New England. however. Also for the rst time. Representation of the Dominican community in the Dominican legislature is perhaps the most clear example of narrow political transnationalism. they are transnational activists. real or assumed.Mapping Dominican transnationalism 329 people to eat and drink. expands the eld of transnational political competition. Sometimes they also involve regular movement between the two countries. since such an increase would make it easier for him to put forward the needs of his constituency. The corners of St. . During elections. rather than people sent from the Dominican Republic. as well as in Santo Domingo and Santiago. his home town. It appears from our interviews and observations that the Dominican consulate in New York has now become much more responsive to the needs of that community than in the past. since there is no institutional mechanism for electing representatives abroad. and those of Broadway in upper Manhattan. numerous members of the PLD in the United States were rewarded with positions in public administration in the Dominican Republic. After his victory. but not travel regularly to the Dominican Republic. spend large amounts of time. For example. Yet. and its administration is much more transparent. and when he expresses his political preference. effort and money on its activities. but that is not always the case. This political in uence. transmigrants can be members of a Dominican party. The same politician added that the dependence of many people on remittances also adds weight to the political opinions of transmigrants. had to be included in the lists of candidates from Santiago. This member of parliament expressed to us his hope that representation from abroad will increase in the future. Nicholas Ave. All these point to the increasing participation and weight of transmigrants in Dominican politics and public administration. the New York Consul and his top assistants are members of the New York community. Leonel Fernandez grew up in New York City and had close relations with the New York branch of the PLD. Broad political transnationality: One of the most common expressions of broad political transnationality is the transmigrants’ interest in electoral politics. These cases of narrow transnationality are based on a high level of institutionalization and in constant involvement on transnational activities. This candidate. and motor caravans organized by the different political parties clog the main streets of the Dominican neighbourhood s. are the settings for passionate political arguments. In addition. the current president. The PLD decided to include a member of its New York branch in its congressional lists for the rst time in the 1996 election.

The Dominican broad political transnational eld is. since Dominican politicians do not want the presidential election to be decided abroad. the recognition of double citizenship by the Dominican government has certainly helped. That realization led Dominican political parties to encourage Dominicans to naturalize and participate in the American political process. on their ability to send remittances. While mainly a reaction to the recent anti-immigration policies of the United States government. If the idea is accepted. According to our informants. What is currently being discussed is the creation of formal representation for transmigrants.330 José Itzigsohn et al. richer and more interesting than the occasional electoral participation. was elected. In 1994 the Dominican state granted the right to double citizenship for Dominicans abroad. but the decision to extend double citizenship was also the result of an understanding on the part of Dominican politicians of the dependence of the country on the wellbeing of Dominicans abroad. it would raise a number of very interesting organizational questions: how many representatives would Dominicans abroad have? How would the overseas geographical representation be divided? Would New York represent New England. Dominican parties. but many of their members have participated actively in the efforts to increase Dominican political representation in the United States. This action was. creating a kind of overseas electoral district. as such. the result of pressures by Dominicans in the United States who were reluctant to naturalize because it meant the loss of Dominican citizenship. In Providence. that are not mainly economic or political. Italy and Venezuela? Civil-societal transnationalism Narrow civil-societal transnationality: Several transnational initiatives . the current terms of the debate exclude the possibility of voting for president. or would every region in the United States have its own representatives? And what about the expanding Dominican diaspora outside the United States. a Dominican candidate lost the election to the city council by only eleven votes. grass roots or institutional. in part. and Dominican participation in American politics has indeed increased. and by this act expanded the scope of the transnational political eld. In recent years large numbers of Dominicans have naturalized. and in 1996 Adriano Espaillat was the rst Dominican to be elected as state representative. If the Dominican state nally grants the right to vote to Dominicans abroad. it will also expand the transnational political eld. in countries such as Spain. This increase in participation has yielded results. however. In 1992 New York City’s rst Dominican councilman. which would allow Dominicans abroad to vote for their representatives to the Dominican congress. are . Guillermo Linares. have not taken part in these elections.

including baseball. The most common form of organization is the town association. That is. serving the entire Latino population. Broad civil-societal transnationality: Under broad civil-societal transnationality. that is. In New York City. bowling and domino. In both North-American cities there are numerous Dominican sport leagues. but none currently in Providence – although there have been a few in the past. narrow civilsocietal transnationality is based on institutions – the building of associations and organizations – and continuous involvement on issues pertaining to the two countries. These leagues often organize trips to the Dominican Republic in which they play against teams from several cities. prostitution. As with the case of narrow political transnationality. A similar institutional transnational initiative is a graduate programme in bilingual education. and at some point those enrolled in the programme have to take classes in Santo Domingo at the home campus. This programme organized by the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo in New York City and Providence. Dominican professors come to the United States and teach for two or three months. There are numerous organizations of this type in New York City. The alleged reason for the current absence of this type of organization is the lack of critical mass from any particular place.Mapping Dominican transnationalism 331 included in this category. the goals range from the cultural to the economic. who have already been transformed by their experience abroad. this organization has goals that range from the improvement of the local image of Dominicans living abroad – which associates Dominicans abroad with the drug trade. Dominican religious groups are also known by informants in both . we locate a large number of community initiatives in diverse areas. and ostentatiou s behaviour – to assisting returning immigrants. open to the entire Latino population. leads to a Master’s degree. basketball. and address speci c needs of returning Dominicans to the Dominican Republic. Besides serving as a focus for socialization. and is in great demand. the programme has been in place for a number of years. In the Dominican Republic there are a few organizations of people that have lived abroad. The degrees of the programme are recognized in the United States and serve to facilitate full entry into the eld of education. It has recently been organized in Providence and expectations of it are high. particularly those who want to invest in the Dominican Republic business world. Constant movement between the two places is less common. associations created by people from a certain town or region that gather to socialize and to help their town or village. depending on the connections of the organizers. such as the Fundacion para la Defensa de Dominicanos Residents en el Exterior (Foundation for the Defence of Dominicans Living Abroad).

One of our informants in New York City who has organized a basketball tournament with a youth team from his home town told us that in order to get visas for the team he had to sign a guarantee that they would all return home. two kinds of problems with these transnational exchanges. He was successful in achieving this and has now gained credibility to bring more teams. if anyone on the team he brought had stayed on in the United States. one of the most important afternoon papers. or a team from Providence playing in New York.332 José Itzigsohn et al. such as a team from Sabana Iglesias playing Santiago. Nevertheless. It appears that this type of exchange is frequent. they are very important because they show that the frame of reference for several activities transcends the borders of the countries. a morning paper. as well as in the United States. such as raf es and dances. This problem is dealt with by organizing fundraising events. The experiences of Dominicans in the United States are re-de ning cultural de nitions and practices of Dominicans in general. Cultural transnationalism ‘Narrow’ cultural transnationalis m: Cultural transnationalism refers to a diverse number of practices and institutions that take part in the formation of meanings. Dominicans are among the largest national groups in the United States. Among the institutional elements that maintain the cultural connection between Dominicans is the media. Levitt 1997. There are. or games are organized against teams from the other country. although with a more limited . The second problem is that in spite of the blurring of the importance of nation-states. but not regular. in the Dominican Republic and abroad. The rst one is that travelling from Santiago to New York City is much more costly than going to Santo Domingo. however. Existing communication technologies allow for a constant linkage between Dominicans at home and abroad. has a New York daily edition and can be found in most bodegas. it would have precluded him from bringing any other team. and as a result obtaining a visa to the United States in recent years has become increasingly dif cult. Dominican baseball leagues in the Dominican Republic. are always organizing games against other leagues and teams. For example. is printed daily in Miami. El Siglo. However. This problem is more complicated to deal with. countries to organize fundraising events for particular projects such as for churches and schools in the Dominican Republic. political borders and migration of cers still exist. El Nacional. These are the processes that de ne the changing discourses about what it is to be Dominican. to what extent and in which ways do these changes take place? This is a rich eld of inquiry and scholars are increasingly paying attention to it (Duany 1994. Sometimes the leagues or teams are from neighbouring cities. Weyland 1997). identities and values. The question is.

Dancing merengue is a de ning element in the de nition of Dominican identity. In this case. which differentiates them from other youth. transforming them from the objects of others’ discourses into subjects with their own voice. Access to the Dominican media allows Dominicans on the east coast of the United States to keep themselves updated and in constant touch with what is going on in the Dominican Republic. still dance merengue. what characterizes narrow cultural transnationalism is institutionalization and constant involvement in cultural production in the Dominican Republic and the diaspora. who have not been much in the Dominican Republic and do not necessarily speak Spanish uently. Those connected to the internet can read daily El Listín Diario. in particular. move back and forth within the transnational space. however. the oldest and most prestigious of Dominican newspapers (which is also sold in bodegas). Academics. on the other hand. New York City is a place of constant musical innovation and Dominican musicians in New York have incorporated many elements of hip-hop in their music . In this way.Mapping Dominican transnationalism 333 distribution than El Nacional. such as Puerto Ricans and African Americans. in turn. Many of our informants in the United States remarked that listening and dancing merengue was one of the main components of Dominican identity abroad. Similarly. academic research. reinforces their identity as Dominicans. and as an institution is geographica lly bounded to that city. cable television and radio stations provide access to popular Dominican programmes and news. A very important institution engaged in the re-elaboration of cultural discourses is the Center for Dominican Studies at the City University of New York [CUNY]. The Center was organized by Dominican scholars who grew up and were trained academically in the United States. They assert that second-generation Dominicans. complex. It attempts to articulate the voice of Dominicans in the diaspora. Thus the Center is entering into a dialogue about the de nition of Dominican identity and the telling of Dominican history that can alter the intellectual discourses on those issues. intellectual work and cultural production ow in the transnational space. This constant connection. Currently the Center has been awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship to bring scholars to do research on the topic of Silenced Voices in Dominican history. a feeling of being part of the national imagined community. ‘Broad’ cultural transnationality: One central element in the formation of Dominican identities is music (Duany 1994). At the same time it has become a referent for Dominican scholars in the Dominican Republic. The Center is located in New York. providing a home for visiting scholars who spend time conducting research in New York. the Dominican discourse of race (Torres-Saillant 1998). The cultural musical in uences are. and the Center has become a referent for Dominican academics.

cultural and economic boundaries of the nation that gives rise to a transnational community. In 1997 this paper published a series of thirty-eight articles on Dominicans in New York City. and their fashion. It is the lack of coincidence between the political. However. A similar phenomenon is taking place in the literary eld. They portray success as being based on hard work and ‘pulling oneself up by the bootstraps’. This type of music – and the groups that play it – is currently the most popular one among Dominican teenagers both in the United States and the Dominican Republic. Dominican writers in the United States are gaining increasing transnational recognition. Many young Dominican musicians in New York City are playing a musical genre called ‘merenhouse’ that mixes traditional merengue rhythms with hip-hop beats. that image is slowly beginning to change. and their increasing presence in the Dominican economy and politics. but also about the Mirabal sisters. is changing the way Dominican transmigrants are seen by Dominicans on the island. one on the island and one abroad. New York style of dressing such as baggy pants.334 José Itzigsohn et al. . that of the migrant that comes home to show-off his/her newly acquired wealth. That. 3 In our view. Part of the rst generation. Hoy. The increasing assertiveness of Dominicans abroad. basketball T-shirts. Addressing the issue of image is one of three leading island newspapers. These authors are widely read and celebrated in both countries. A Dominican politician expressed the increasing recognition of the transnational community saying that this is the age of the two Dominican Republics. Another author. The popularity of this music (and the video-clips that carry it) has an effect also on the way people carry themselves. Julia Alvarez (1991. and certainly the second generation become accustomed to the ways certain things are done in the United States. each article portraying the case of a successful Dominican. writes about the experience of growing up in both countries. This is an important issue that requires further study. Junot Díaz (1996). but raises the questions whether and how transnationality is changing gender relations among Dominicans. It is true that the more widespread image is that of the ‘Dominicanyork’. which many suspect has not been acquired by legal means. These portraits include cases of second-generation Dominicans who are also recognized as successful members of the national community. the heroines of the ght against dictator Rafael Trujillo. does not diminish her own identity as Dominican. and certain haircuts are increasingly seen in the streets of the Dominican Republic. it is the age of the extraterritorial nation. however. adding that she ‘cannot take the way men relate to women there’. These authors mix their Dominican and American experience in their writing. The student we quoted previously argues that she has a hard time explaining to her friend in the Dominican Republic that she is going to graduate concentrating on women’s studies. 1994) writes about ‘How the García Sisters Lost their Accent’.

The dynamics of transnationalism In this article we have presented an analysis of the structure of Dominican transnationalism. but that does not tell us much about the process of formation of particular transnational communities. At the same time. It also allows people to enjoy their newly acquired social status which they cannot enjoy in the United States due to discrimination. Dominicans began sending remittances long before that time. We have argued that it is useful to distinguish between ‘narrow’ and ‘broad’ transnational practices. the 1990s witnessed the consolidation of truly competitive politics in the . For many. We agree with this general argument. Dominican political parties in the United States already existed for several decades.4 At what point in the history of Dominican migration can we begin to speak about Dominican transnationality? In our review of the literature on the Dominican migration. many aspects of Dominican culture in the Dominican Republic are being shaped by the experience of Dominicans in the United States. There are several reasons for this ascendance of Dominicans abroad. However. The sheer numbers and economic capacity of Dominicans abroad increased their importance in terms of fundraising and political support. however. there is among Dominicans in the United States. we noted that the study of transnationality emerged in the 1990s. It encompasses cultural practices that refer to the de nition and boundaries of ‘being Dominican’. How was it formed? Is there a central element to it? Most scholars link the rise of transnationalism to the globalizatio n of capital that characterize the present phase of the capitalist world system. Nevertheless. We argue that the de nition of the boundaries and content of Dominicanness is certainly becoming transnational. Returning to the Dominican Republic is still the dream of many rst-generation migrants. questions about the dynamics of this transnational eld. As one of our informants put it ‘We do not need to go back because we have recreated the Dominican Republic in Washington Heights’. The sum of these practices constitutes the transnational social eld. an increasing sense of their legitimacy as Dominicans. it is only with the deep economic crisis that the country went through during the 1980s and the mass migration that took place. that remittances became a central element in the economy of the country. Dominicans abroad also became aware of their economic and political importance in the life of the Dominican Republic and began to demand recognition.Mapping Dominican transnationalism 335 The eld of broad cultural transnationality is extended but not limitless. There are. Certainly. this is the only way of enjoying the fruits of their hard work in the United States. Finally. but it was only in the 1990s that the Dominican communities abroad became central to the political life of the island.

In turn.336 José Itzigsohn et al. which provided the incentives for looking for support abroad. and broad practices in another eld. take part in one or other of these practices. it is only at some point during the late 1980s that the Dominican communities abroad gained enough economic and political weight in the life of the island to speak about a transnational community. We do not know when the informal transnational traders started to conduct their business in a regular way. when Portes and Guarnizo(1991) conducted their study. At the beginning of the 1990s. Some of the main elements that constitute Dominican transnationality were thus present from the beginning of Dominican migration to the United States. we do not know. Dominican Republic. the slow recognition of that weight by Dominicans at home brought the extension of double nationality. they found a sizeable number of transnational rms. but while this kind of itinerant trade is not new in the Caribbean. It is important to remark. and the shifts in ways transmigrants are perceived. A certain degree of capital accumulation is necessary before people can invest back home. or in narrow and broad practices in the same eld at different times. that narrow and broad are differences of degree rather than categorical. The consequence is the expansion of the imagined boundaries of Dominicanness. it seems that. transnational traders and rms are increasingly important for the economic welfare of Dominicans at home and abroad. Conclusions We suggest that the structure of the Dominican transnational eld – and transnational elds in general – is better understood by looking at narrow and broad transnational social practices. an element that without it the boundaries of the nation will return to be equal with the boundaries of the country? We think not. Is there any element that is central to this transnational eld. however. in the present context. People may be involved in narrow transnational practices in one eld. at least not as long as the Dominican Republic cannot generate enough jobs for its population fuelling emigration and continued dependence on remittances. What is certain is that currently the . However. Whether this situation is a long term one or not. Remittances and political support were probably the initial engines in the construction of transnationalism. at home and abroad. but now the cultural construction of a transnational nation and economic transnational businesses are rmly established. The important point is that a large number of Dominicans. and as long as the United States’ symbolic system of racial strati cation continues to preclude full integration into the American system for people of colour. Transnational rms in the narrow sense also seem to be a product of the growth of the Dominican community abroad.

4. no. pp. Georges’s (1990) book uses the word transnationalism in its title. no. although it probably belongs more to the mainstream work on the socio-economic effects of migratio n than to our current understanding of transnationalism. in Patricia Pessar (ed.. 645. 1 –24 GEORGES. NINA and BLANC-SZANTON. EUGENIA 1988 ‘Dominican Self-Help Associations in Washington Heights: Integration of a New Population in a Multiethnic Neighborhood’. Chapel Hill. Whether this is an innovation brought by Dominican transmigran ts is an interesting question for research . JULIA 1991 How the García Girls Lost Their Accent. no. The CUNY Dominican Studies Institute GLICK SCHILLER. Working Paper No. 18. pp. DEL CASTILLO. 1987 ‘Migration. 3. and Cultural Change in the Dominican Republic. Department of Sociology. BRAY. 49 –69 DIAZ.Mapping Dominican transnationalism 337 relevant cultural. pp. 2. JORGE 1994 Quisqueya on the Hudson: The Transnational Identity of Dominicans in Washington Heights. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. LINDA and BLANC-SZANTON. LINDA G. NY: Center for Migration Studies. economic and political social elds of Dominicans are transnational. BASCH. almost every car-wash in Santo Domingo is transformed into a dancing place by night. The idea was put forward by Jose Ovalle Polanco in a speech given in a celebratio n of Dominican independence in Providence. Santo Domingo: Editorial Cenapec DEL CASTILLO. PA: Gordon and Breach.). PATRICIA 1991 Between Two Islands: Dominican International Migration. New York : Columbia University Press GRAHAM. New York: Plume ——. JUNOT 1996 Drown. DAVID 1984 ‘Economic development: the middle class and international migratio n in the Dominican Republic’. and De-territorialized Nation-States. Post-colonial Predicaments. Langhorne. International Migration Review. 15.1994 In the Time of the Butter ies. References ALVAREZ. vol. SHERRI and PESSAR.1. CA: University of California Press GUARNIZO. JOSE and MITCHEL. 3. New Directions for Latino Policy and Research. CHRISTOPHER 1987 La Inmigración Dominicana en Estados Unidos. national identity. 2. NINA. Caribbean Circuits: New Directions in the Study of Caribbean Migration. MARTIN F. CRISTINA 1992 ‘Transnationalism: A New Analytic Framework for Understanding Migration’. The Johns Hopkins University . PhD dissertation. CRISTINA 1994 Nations Unbound: Transnational Projects. GLICK SCHILLER. 1992 ‘One Country in Two: Dominican-Owned Firms in the United States and the Dominican Republic’. The Journal of Ethnic Studies. Development. LUIS E. and cultural policy’. JOSE and MURPHY. vol. pp. NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill BASCH. Berkeley. 217 –36. The work of David Kyle (1994) is an example of the kind of analysis needed on this issue. PAMELA 1997 ‘Reimagining the nation and de ning the district: Dominican migration and transnational politics’. Inter-University Program for Latino Research and the Social Science Research Council —— 1990 The Making of a Transnational Community: Migration. Dominican Research Monographs. 91 –126 GRASMUCK. Notes 1. Suddenly. Car-wash places are interesting to look at because in recent years they have also become places of entertainment. Staten Island. New York: Riverhead Books DUANY.

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Dominican .Mapping Dominican transnationalism 339 JOSE ITZIGSOHN is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Brown University. Rhode Island. ESTHER HERNANDEZ MEDINA is a professor in the Division of Social Sciences. OBED VAZQUEZ is a Doctoral Student in Sociology at Brown University ADDRESS (for correspondence): José Itzigsohn. Dominican Republic. Providence. email: Jose_Itzigsohn@brown. USA. Department of Sociology. Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC). Brown University. CARLOS DORE CABRAL is a researcher at the Facultad Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) in Santo Domingo. Providence. Rhode Island 02912.

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