The Quetzal in Flight

Guatemalan Refugee Families in the United States

by Norita Vlach

Print Flyer

October 1992


Pages 200
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Current Events and Issues/International

The Quetzal in Flight examines the motives for immigration of Guatemalan families to the United States, and explores the processes of psychological change and adaptation that take place within the families during the early period of resettlement. Norita Vlach interviews six families, illustrating how each family's culture reflects its origins, decision to move, journey, and settling-in process. Unique to this study are its focus on a previously undocumented Central American population, the demonstrated interrelation of historical-structural and acculturation perspectives, and the use of the nuclear family as a model with which to study the immigration process.

Following a discussion of migration and mental health and a description of the historical and geographical context of migration in Guatemala, Vlach briefly reviews literature in the field of family studies and migration. The six case studies follow, each one characterized as either centripetal (in which families pull together to face the new world) or centrifugal (in which members are disengaged and in conflict). The author summarizes how the families cope under stressful circumstances, how they use resources, and how they exhibit conflicting perceptions of both Guatemala and the United States. The effect of civil war in Guatemala, the role of the evangelical church, the consequences of marital and family separation and reunification, and the disquieting reaction of Guatemalan migrant youth to their transplantation into the United States are all addressed. Vlach concludes by discussing the implications for anthropological theory and applied work. Although this study is specific to Guatemalan families, its findings apply readily to recent immigrants and refugees of other Latin American countries.

Table of Contents

Migration and the Guatemalan Family
Understanding Migration
Coping and the Latino Family Culture
Migrant Mental Health
The Quetzal in Flight
Guatemalan Exodus
Six Families in Flight: Conflicto. Aventura. y Muerte--Ido de Sentido: The Menchú-Franzi Family
Éxito y Sacrificio: The Walter Family
Control y Libertad: Desesperando: The Chavez Family
Asimilando--América y El Alma: The García Family
Familismo, Nacionalismo, y Obligación: The Navarro Family
Solidaridad, Disciplina, y Progreso: The Castillo Family
Migration and Coping
The Meaning of Migration
How Families Cope
New Directions in Migrant Mental Health
Appendixes: Mini-ethnography of the Guatemalan-American Immigrant Community in the San Francisco Bay Area
Methods of Study

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