“Divergent Trajectories: Identity and Community among Portuguese in Germany and the United States” by Andrea Klimt
|April 2, 2011||Posted by Luis Gonçalves under 2006, Andrea Klimt, Article|
Andrea Klimt published “Divergent Trajectories: Identity and Community among Portuguese in Germany and the United States” in the Portuguese Studies Review in 2006. This is a fascinating article that compares the complex ways in which Portuguese immigrants to Germany and to the United States have asserted their identities and the set of loyalties that have come into play. The author addresses the divergence in the forms of identity between the two migrant communities that were shaped by the context in the host countries. The interaction between multiple factors created this divergence and shaped how the Portuguese in Germany and Portuguese-Americans think about themselves and where they belong.
The article starts by situating the Portuguese immigration to Germany, in particular to Hamburg. Klimt’s writing about the Portuguese experience in this city is strongly rooted in the power of testimony, which she recorded during several research visits in the eighties and nineties, and gives the article a vivid account of the expectations of the community. She uses those testimonies to show that the low-profile Portuguese in Germany see their situation as temporary, consequently, they do not apply for German nationality, although some of them have lived longer in Germany than at “home,” and in that spirit, they also invest their earnings in Portugal, in particular buying land and building houses, preparing for that eventual return. Although the Portuguese immigration to Germany has increased significantly, the community is still relatively small and now faces competition from other migrant communities that have come to Germany in the last few decades. The second generation has been able to integrate successfully, but they still leave open the possibility of return and hold on to their Portuguese nationality.
The author offers a fantastic contrast between the low-profile Portuguese in Germany and highly visible Portuguese-American in the Northeastern of the United States. The latter is geographically concentrated, and institutionally established. The community has established their own Portuguese-American social, economic and political processes. Contrary to the community in Germany, Portuguese-Americans concentrate in certain geographic areas and they live in Portuguese neighborhoods with their extended families. Their national belonging is firmly secured in the United States, which leads to no investment in their communities of origin in Portugal.
Klimt presents strong arguments for the differences found and she addresses several constraints that have come together to produce very different trajectories among these two Portuguese migrant populations.