Migration and Belonging: Narratives from a Highland Town (collection of blog posts, introduction by Lauren Heidbrink, 2016)

Youth Circulations is honored to showcase the important contributions of Guatemalan scholars in a new multilingual series entitled “Migration and Belonging: Narratives from a Highland Town.” This 7-part series emerges from a longitudinal study on the deportation and social reintegration of youth in Guatemala and Southern Mexico. With generous funding from the National Science Foundation, an interdisciplinary team conducted ethnographic and survey research in Almolonga, a K’iche’ community in the Department of Quetzaltenango.

Like many highland communities of Guatemala, Almolonga has been intensely impacted by migration and deportation over the past three decades. Known as the “breadbasket” of Central America, Almolonga is a peri-urban community that enjoys a thriving agricultural economy. Employment opportunities are abundant and include harvesting multiple seasons of crops, selling in local markets, and commerce activities to Mexico and El Salvador. In fact, Almolonga has experienced a population surge, in part due to internal migration to Almolonga by Guatemalans seeking employment. Known for a strong evangelical church, there is also notable institutional leadership. And yet in spite of these promising aspects, poverty remains significant, social inequality pronounced, alcoholism pervasive, and livable wages scarce. Heralded as an alternative to migration because of its employment opportunities, Almolonga continues to experience significant out migration to the U.S., primarily to bedroom communities of Portland, Oregon where there has been a relatively well-established Almolonguense community since the 1990s. As we learned in our research with households and community leaders in Almolonga, the impacts of migration and deportation are pervasive and enduring.


We offer a window into this complex landscape through “Migration and Belonging” which features blogs, poems, and reflections from an interdisciplinary research team conducting a household survey in Almolonga. Each piece is immediately informative about global youth, migration, health and well-being, belonging, and the effects of deportation across geographic space. And when taken together, this collection offers a rich, multifaceted account of a community impacted by colonialism, state violence, and the profound impacts—both historic and contemporary—of migration moving between intimate, community, and transnational levels.

“Migration and Belonging” likewise confronts the reader with questions about audience, voice, and translation. How does this series, at once heartfelt and artistic, reach an academic audience—or is it forever relegated to the blogosphere? What is gained and lost in translation? In our final blog of the collection, Celeste Sánchez, Giovanni Batz, and I reflect on these and other questions that arose during collaborations with our research team.

Please visit Youth Circulations (or subscribe) to receive the following weekly blogs in our series: