Anastasia Konstantakatou (Tufts University)

The Construction of Ethnic Identity among Young Latin Americans of Greek Origin

A study of immigration patterns of the Greeks reveals that the United States, Australia and Germany were the three most popular destinations. The Greeks started immigrating in the end of the 19th and throughout the early and middle 20th Century, in an attempt to find a better, more prosperous life, as well as for ideological reasons. A relatively small wave of immigration occurred in Latin America. Today, there are approximately 25,000 Greeks in Brazil, 20,000 in Argentina, 3,000 in Venezuela, 2,000 in Chile and smaller communities in other countries. Lack of access to Greek cultural materials, professors, and gradually decreasing population are factors that threaten the Greek presence in Argentina. Thirty years ago, the population of Greeks in Buenos Aires alone was 40-45,000 people. Still, the sense of "Greek Identity" has not vanished.

In this paper I will focus on the young Greeks of South America. Through a series of interviews, I will explore the relation that this younger population has with its country of origin. During the past year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in conjunction with the General Secretariat of Greeks Abroad (GGAE) organized "a hosting program" offering young people of Greek origin from South America, Africa and Oceania the opportunity to get acquainted with the Greek culture and language. My field work was based on over fifty interviews conducted with participants in this program. I have also been in contact with South American representatives to the World Council of Hellenes Abroad.

My work investigates the importance of Greek Heritage in the lives of these young Greek-Latin Americans. Interviews therefore focus on such components of Greek identity as language, history, religion, traditions and customs in an attempt to get a sense of how immersed they have been in Greek culture. I also try to determine each participant's connection to Greek culture and the importance they give to their Greek origins. Ultimately, I try to understand how the Greek Identity is constructed, manifested and transmitted among this relatively small minority of Latin America. Utilizing material from studies on identity and immigration, I hope to reach conclusions on this understudied population and to discover if the reactions to their host countries are substantially different to those of Greeks in other countries such as the US and Australia.