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Tongan Migration: A Journey To The New World

1318 words - 5 pages

Society in the United States generally assumes immigration as a means of escaping from one's burdens in their native country in order to gain a better life and live the American dream. The book "Voyages- from Tongan Villages to American Suburbs" by Cathy A. Small shows the reasons why large magnitudes of Tongans islanders migrate here every year. Rather than the typical reasons of leaving one's country, Small presents the several different causes that persuade Tongans to migrate to the US through means of ethnography over a period of several years. Around the 1960's Tongans started looking towards western countries for income. They migrated mostly to America where they sought to seek not only economic opportunity, political freedom, prestige, marriage, to improve personal development and to aid their family overseas as a part of their duty as a Tongan. Originally these people all had one common goal: " become better Tongans- to develop themselves and their families and to improve their lot and status among other Tongans" (Small 1997: 186). By reading the research done by Small which portrays the lives of people in one family as a whole and as individuals, we are able to see the changes they undergo and the effects of it on their families as it compares their daily lives both in Tonga as well as in the US.The island of Tonga, located in the South Pacific with a population of 100,000 farmers and fishermen, is a land of history and tradition that is fast-changing during the past few decades (Small 1997: 4-5). Tonga, though once a British province, was never really colonized- the people continued their customs and ways of life. The reasons of migration of each family varied, some wanted their kids to have a better opportunity with school, a well paying job, or a chance to be with their family (Small 1997: 79). Tongans regard status in society very highly and according to their customs, wealth is measured in terms of the traditional articles such as the tapa cloth. In the past tapa cloth took several days, even months, to make and only a selected few elite members of the village could afford one whereas now, many members of the village, both in America as well as in Tonga own these priced articles. Since wealth is so highly regarded among Tongans, their ultimate goal in life drove them to migrate, sometimes without even a choice. Each Tongan left with a determination to make their village better. However, not every Tongan who wants to go to the US can go. There are responsibilities to be fulfilled in the village as well and so they stay back. "They look after land. They tend houses or care for relatives left behind. They send traditional wealth overseas and offer kin a place of importance and comfort when they return to visit" (Small 1997: 196). Those who stayed back also did jobs that took talent and effort such as opening a new business or running a farm. Likewise the immigrant also has his share of responsibilities- "They must continue to send...

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