By Sarah Bills
Hispanic women from Carbon County have proven their ability to adapt to change while continuing to guard their rich culture and traditions.
“These women are active negotiators,” said Lynn England, a BYU professor of sociology, in a lecture he presented Monday, Jan 20, as part of BYU”s Women”s Research Institute Women”s Studies Colloquium Lecture Series.
“They look at their lives and decide what traditions they will not give up as well as what they are willing to give up,” England said.
England constructed a history of the Hispanic women in the county by interviewing two groups of 15 different Hispanic women who have close ties to the area. The women, virtually all U.S. nationals, grew up in Spanish-speaking homes. All were at least 30-years-old and had been married at least once.
According to England, family, religion and work form the foundation for these women. The women said their community roles center on these areas, rather than areas like politics or economics.
Hispanics originally moved to Carbon County 150 years ago to help construct the railroad. Later, they worked in the county”s coalmines. Now, community and cultural ties keep many of them there, said England. During the past century and a half, intermarriages between Hispanics and Anglo Saxons have changed individual Hispanic families. But, Hispanic women aggressively fight to preserve their traditions involving family, religion and strong work ethic.
“In Chicano culture, success is not based on dollars and profit,” said England. “They consider success to be stability, peace and growing old with family.”
England explained that the Hispanic family ideal includes the presence of grandparents, aunts, uncles and other extended family members. Extended family members help parents raise their children, as do other members of the community.
“It”s not uncommon to have a neighborhood brother or grandparent,” said England.
Work is used as another mechanism for enhancing family relationships, England said. Women will take on jobs, such as custodial work, that allow their children to go to work with them and do homework while they are waiting.
Many mothers also work in the schools as teaching assistants – bridging the Spanish/English language gap between recent Hispanic immigrants and their English teachers. Working in the schools enables many Hispanic women to spend more time with their children, said England.
These women are proud of their lives and their husbands” jobs, but they want more for their children. Many Hispanic women work so they will be able to put their children through school. They are trying to teach their children the traditional religious values that mean so much to them.
They regularly attend Catholic mass and often instruct their” new Anglo priests as to how things are traditionally conducted.