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Problem Drinking among Migrant Mexican Farmworkers

  • Dr. Garcia and his colleagues at MAATI also developed a research project to examine situational factors among mushroom harvesters in Southern Chester County. The relationship between situational factors (i.e., living arrangements, social isolation, and peer influence) and problem drinking are explored in this study. These situational factors are associated with the migrants’ status; that is, their stay in the United States without their families and their presence in the country as an undocumented worker. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) funded the project “Problem Drinking among Migrant Mexican Farmworkers” (grant number: 1 R03 AA12659-01) in Fall 2000.

    The NIAAA-funded project is based on observations made by Dr. Garcia in 1993–94 while examining the emergence of Mexican enclaves in Toughkenomon and Kennett Square in Southern Chester County, under the auspices of a Ford Foundation Grant (see Map of Southern Chester County). A report of his findings can be found on the Web page of Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University at www.jsri.msu.edu. In addition, while examining this subject, he and his colleague, Dr. Gonzalez, conducted an ethnographic study of the migrant workers in the region for the Census Bureau. The objective of the Census Bureau was to provide the Census Bureau with information on how to locate and enumerate the migrant population in 2000 census. The findings were published in a report, titled “Finding and Enumerating Migrants in Mexican Enclaves of the US Northeast: The Case of Southern Chester County, Pennsylvania” (1995), written by Drs. Garcia and Gonzalez, for the Center for Survey Methods Research of the Census Bureau.

    While gathering field data on the Mexican enclaves and the migrant population, Drs. Garcia and Gonzalez were struck by the drinking practices of the migrants and decided to study. They found that light drinking (one to three beers) took place after work during the weekday, but heavy drinking (more than three, up to twenty-four) occurred on the weekends, usually starting on Friday and continuing well into Sunday evening. Some of the workers consumed up to two cases of beer per week. Too often, as a result, heavy consumption led to alcohol-related local disturbances, physical fights, and auto accidents. The researchers observed these drinking patterns and behaviors and took note, made informal inquires about alcohol practices, and, through genealogies of key informants, learned of the drinking problems of deceased and living kin members. Although the information on drinking was not collected in a systematic fashion, it provided them with insights into the drinking of transnational migrants.

    The following are available works on the research project:

    • Garcia, Victor. 2001. Exploring Problem Drinking Among Transnational Mexican Farmworkers in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Research Paper presented at the Society for Applied Anthropology Annual Meeting Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, March.
    • Garcia, Victor and Gondolf, Edward. (2001). Transnational Mexican Farmworkers and Problem Drinking: A Review of the Literature. Social Science and Medicine (Under Revision)