By the time this commentary is in print, 2010 census figures will have been released; and the trend of immigrant, especially Latino, settlement in southern U.S. cities and towns will have been an identifiable aspect of the geography of immigration to the U.S. for a decade, if not longer. With nearly fifteen years of published research on the topic (Cravey 1997, 2003; Murphy et al. 2001; Selby et al. 2001; Bankston et al. 2003; Fink 2003; Yarbrough 2003; Odem 2004; Winders 2005; Smith and Furuseth 2006; Striffler 2007; Shultz 2008; Smith and Winders 2008; Ansley and Shefner 2009), the broad features of Latino migration to the South are well established, as are the driving forces behind it (reviewed again in this issue by Krista Perreira). The Nuevo South has become a sustained topic in geography, anthropology, sociology, political science, and other fields associated with the study of immigration (Hernandez-Leon and Zuniga 2000; Atiles and Bohon 2003; Erwin 2003; Waters and Jiménez 2005; Mc-Clain et al. 2006; Benson 2008) and is an emerging topic in additional areas like Latino studies.
Within academic and journalistic writings, accounts of Latino population growth in southern locales—and the political, economic, and cultural dynamics associated with it—are no longer novel. Large and small southern communities, as well as some southern states, have immigration task forces and offices charged with finding ways to meet the needs of a growing immigrant community or, at minimum, to identify those needs. Many southern locales have Spanish-language business districts that range in size from a few blocks to large urban corridors, and grocery stores and Wal-Marts across the region display ‘Hispanic’ foods and Spanish-language advertising. Spanish-language newspapers, some with local content, are not hard to find; and the radio dial, especially on AM, can quickly find a Latino station in much of the South. Southern counties were some of the earliest adopters of 287(g) programs in a post-9/11 era, and southern states have led the way in the latest round of restrictive state- and local-level legislation vis-à-vis undocumented immigrants (Winders 2007).
For all these reasons, the New South (Owen 2004; Kocchar et al. 2005; Smith and Furuseth 2006), the Nuevo New South (Fink 2003), or the New Latino South (Smith 2001; Wainer 2004) has been mapped, or at least traced, in recent years. Geographers like Altha Cravey (1997, 2003) and Karen Johnson-Webb (2002, 2003; Johnson-Webb and Johnson 1996) provided some of the earliest scholarship on this topic. Largely because of these initial works, more recent research on Latino migration to the South no longer needs to justify its relevance or convince readers that Latino/as are impacting the region’s social, cultural, political, and economic practices. Instead, as this special issue so clearly shows, research on Latino migration to the South can now push in new directions. These new directions, I suggest, enable not only richer understandings of the local and regional transformations brought about by Latino migration to the South but also more productive ways to smooth the knots in the increasingly entangled lives of southern residents, new and old.
In this concluding commentary, I draw attention to three ways that the authors in this issue highlight new directions in both the Nuevo South and studies of it. First, these works demonstrate the range of responses to Latino settlement in the South, from universities (DeGuzmán) to longterm residents (Popke) to Latino residents themselves (Cuadros). Understanding these responses, and the individual and structural forces behind them, is key to understanding not only how the growth of Latino communities transforms southern locales but also, as Paul Cuadros’s article illustrates, how living in southern locales transforms Latino communities themselves. Second, these writings pay close attention to the connections between Latino migration and cultural transformations in the South. Whether discussing the role of the humanities in understanding Latino settlement in the region (DeGuzmán), the role of art in conveying migrant experiences in the South (Valdivia et al.), or the role of migration itself in transforming gender performances in North Carolina’s Latino communities (Cuadros), these authors provide insight into how the South...