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Social Networks, Power and Relationships

            Social networks are essential for the participation of all people in communities, especially in immigrant communities. Roger Rouse explains how "migration has always has the potential to challenge established spatial images. It highlights the social nature of space as something created and reproduced through collective human agency" (1996:250). These social spaces hold the potential for social networks. The fact that social networks are dynamic is a given in changing social spaces. Social networks how-ever, cannot be discussed without a gendered lens. When one leaves their entire social network in their home community and begins a new life in a new place, social networks must be re-found and often re-built. Social networks take various forms and serve vari-ous functions for both men and women. Jennifer Hirsch, in her ethnography, A Courtship after Marriage, describes one of the most obvious and useful roles of social networks. She explains that "For migrants to the United States," it is comforting to know that they belong to a social network at home, "reminding them that in Mexico they are valued members of a community in spite of the fact that they work in low-paying low-status jobs" here in the United States (2003:75). In South Bend, we see the same emphasis put on social networks back home. These networks back home, as women and men in South Bend have re-counted, are based primarily on family and extended family. Additionally, for practical-ity‟s sake, they expand and are more flexible here in the United States. There is equal value in belonging to a social network in the United States, specifi-cally in South Bend. Many women, upon arri-val in South Bend, feel more isolated from the social networks of which they were a part of at home. Trust (confianza) is essential to rebuilding social networks in South Bend. One informant, Josselyn, described to us that she finally found power in her rela-tionship with her husband and as a woman in the United States when she found the social network that supported her (Interview).

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