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From Cuba to Canada, from Canada to Cuba: Transnational and Transcultural Immigration

From Cuba to Canada, from Canada to Cuba: Transnational and Transcultural Immigration

Posted by Leyden Figueredo on May 19, 2014

Many people think of Canada as multicultural place due to the fact that Canadians  don’t have an original culture, race, or a unique heritage that identifies them. This fact is reflected on Canadians nowadays, who are very culturally diverse, and come from many ethnic groups, as a result of almost a century of immigration.

In order to analyze immigration in a transnational context, we will show a point of view that comes as part of a wider process which shows the emigration from the country of origin, and the way back to that country and/or the relationship of immigrants with their home-country, through remittances, information, money, etc. This means that despite the distance, and frontiers, certain types of economic, social, cultural, and political relationships get stronger with immigration.

As years go by, attitude towards immigration and the development of migration policies have evolved reflecting the economical, political and social state of Canada.

The migratory relationships between Canada and Cuba, go across borders, build true transnational fields and spaces through which immigrants continue to be part of the social life, while simultaneously becoming part of the labour force of the place they live in.

The Cuban immigrants, specially irregular immigrants, are people that emotionally are more in their country of origin, than in their country of destination. However, they do spend time with more people of their ethnical group in the country they’re in, sharing their own cultural practices. These people, in a regular or irregular way, communicate and send their scarce savings to their family. Irregularity can mean weeks or years, but at some point of the network, and depending on luck, circumstances, and the capacity to adapt, it is likely that they come back or the end up being part of the diaspora of a multinational or a global institution such as the church.

Transculturalism is a phenomenon that has different levels, in which you have to tell apart the activities of the governments and corporations with immigrants; not all immigrants are transnational transmigrants; transnationalism of immigrants has macro-social consequences; the extension of and the many ways of transnational activism varies depending on the contexts in which immigrants exit one country and enter the other.

Nowadays immigrants make up a huge part of the population, making this one of the distinctive characteristics of Canadian society. Of course, not every part of Canada has the same mixture in their population, that’s why in 1971 the federal government announced their multicultural policy, that not only recognizes the reality of pluralism in Canada but also seems to revert the earlier attempt to take immigrants in. The policy challenged every Canadian to accept cultural pluralism, and at the same time encouraged them to participate in the Canadian society fully and equally, turning their society into a society with transnational communities.

We can say that Cubans in Canada form part of a transnational community, due to the fact that it is unthinkable to see Cuba as a nation without taking into account the diaspora in the United States, specially in Miami, and why not in Canada too. We can talk about the Cuban diaspora as a whole. This doesn't mean that in regions such as Ontario there exists a big diasporic activism. In this sense, research has shown that among the Cubans that are living in Canada there is a reluctant attitude towards cultural associations, limiting group activity other than friends and family, to only going out restaurants and bars of Cuban food. When they are asked why, the answer is almost unanimous, it is said that Cubans, in a certain way, don't trust each other.

In a different note, this perspective illuminates new aspects, such as what the existing relationship between Cuban immigration and the strategies of domestic groups in Cuba is. This implies that the analysis of decision making in relation to immigration to Canada extends itself in the context of other possibilities. That’s why, studying the different set of regular  and irregular possibilities of emigration helps us understand whether this decision is made with a forced nature or if it just seems that way for immigrants.

Cubans that come to Canada, don’t only need to adapt to a new life through social and cultural change, in which they will relate not only to Canadians, but to other immigrants too. The key to success is in understanding and adapting to this new society, mixing their culture with the culture of people that come from other nations to accomplish harmony in the process of adaptation. It is not easy, but it can be done. The fundamental objective is to understand Canada as a country and Canadians and their relationship towards immigrants, and the relationship between immigrants with each other. 

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