The American Mosaic Project, 1998
What is Mosaic?
The American Mosaic Project is an intensive, semester-long program designed around fieldwork immersion in a local, multicultural community. The 1998 Mosaic focused on migrant labor in Adams County, Pennsylvania, just South of Carlisle. Migrants in this region today work in apple, peach, and pear harvest and processing. More established Hispanic residents were found to be involved in poultry and egg processing plants as well. Eighteen students (American Studies, Anthropology, and Sociology Majors) and two Professors; Kjell Enge of the Anthropology department and John Bloom of the American Studies department organized and conducted the research.
The American Mosaic Project:
The 1998 American Mosaic Project was a study of migrant farm labor in Adams County, Pennsylvania. Workers come from Mexico, as well as Puerto Rico, Guatemala, and Haiti to assist in the harvesting and processing sectors of the fruit industry. Some workers are seasonal while others have chosen to settle in this South-Central region of Pennsylvania.
Introduction to Adams County:
Adams County has long been a productive fruit growing region of the United States. Local growers of apples, peaches, pears, and other orchard fruits have historically depended upon migrant laborers to cheaply and efficiently harvest their crops. Over the past fifty years of fruit farming in Adams County, and evolution of migrant labor has taken place. It began with African Americans from Southerns states but as these individuals found more solid employment a switch was made to migrants mainly from Puerto Rico. In recent years, the laborers have come from outside the United States, migrating north from Mexico and some even from Guatemala, Haiti, and the Caribbean. Many of these individuals have now settled permanently in small Adams County communities such as Aspers, Biglerville, and York Springs. Through the establishment of Mexican-American communities in Adams County, new levels of linguistic, racial, religious, and cultural diversity have been introduced to the community.
Benefits of Mosaic to Student Research:
A unique opportunity was provided for students interested in learning about ethnicity and multi-culturalism in the United States. The Mosaic explores how immigration, gender, race, and ethnicity intersect with economic status, social class, land ownership, and the exploitation of labor. Unlike California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, or other regions well known as destinations for immigrants from Latin America, Pennsylvania does not share a border with Mexico, was never a part of the Mexican Republic, and has no large Spanish speaking or Native American population. Adams County does not have a long history of relations between Anglo-Americans and Mexican-Americans. Dickinson students participating in the American Mosaic semester had the opportunity to see a new ethnic community in the process of negotiating its place within the established Anglo culture of South Central Pennsylvania.
What did we do?
Dickinson students, from majors in American Studies, Anthropology, Sociology, & Spanish, worked in internships that provided social services to agricultural workers. Examples of such internships were Adams County Head Start, Human Services (which provided G.E.D. and English as a second language courses), Rural Opportunities (food, childcare, job assistance, & educational services), health centers, and others. Through these internships, students had an opportunity to extend their education beyond the classroom, gain experience working with diverse populations, and participate in field research. In addition, students learned about the insights and perspectives of a population that does work essential to our daily lives, but who are invisible to much of the U.S. population. The internships allow students to observe many aspects of workers’ lives, but also allows students give back to the communities in which they live.
Students were required to keep a daily journal, attend their internship about 20 hours a week and conduct two types of research projects; one ethnographic and one based on the oral histories of Hispanics or human services employees. Topics students chose ranged from education to religion and can be found in greater detail on this site. At the end of the semester, a public exhibit was presented at Dickinson with a sound documentary (including narratives of students and workers) and poster board displays. The exhibit then traveled to other destinations in Adams County so that the research of this community could be shared with all.
Please visit the Dickinson College Community Studies Center Mosaic Web Page for more information about Mosaics.