, Volume 75, Issue 3, pp 249–260 | Cite as

Becoming “Hispanic” in the “New South”: Central American immigrants’ racialization experiences in Atlanta, GA, USA

  • Robert A. Yarbrough


For many migrants from Latin America, “Hispanic/Latino(a)” is an identity that they encounter in the United States with which they were unfamiliar in their home countries and must negotiate in their everyday lives in a new context. Specifically, immigrants from Central America are unlikely to see themselves as “Hispanic” or “Latino(a)” prior to living in the United States, more often identifying with their home country, city, town, village, or neighborhood. This paper draws on racialization theory and twenty-seven in-depth interviews with Central American immigrants in Atlanta, GA to examine this process of identity negotiation across the traditionally black/white racialized landscapes of a “New South” city. Interview participants adopt a racialized Hispanic identity through a complex process involving the interplay between how they think of themselves and their perceptions of how native-born Atlantans view them. The interview analysis presented herein demonstrates that although Central American immigrants actively negotiate a Hispanic racialized moniker, they do so within an urban context dominated by native-born residents whose racialized assumptions lump Spanish-speaking, brown skinned individuals into a monolithic “Mexican” category. Thus the ways in which racialized difference is constructed in contemporary Atlanta for recent Central American immigrants is very much bound up in such false presumptions of national identity and cultural group belonging.


Racialization Central American immigrants Hispanic identity New South Atlanta 



Many thanks for Steve Holloway, Kavita Pandit, Amy Ross, Deb Martin, Stephanie Bohon, and Josh Inwood for comments on earlier drafts of this paper. I am also indebted to two anonymous reviewers for their insights and suggestions. Research for this project was conducted through funding by National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Award #0402746 and the Association of American Geographers (AAG) Dissertation Research Grant Fund.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geology and GeographyGeorgia Southern UniversityStatesboroUSA

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