Comiendo Bien: A Situational Analysis of the Transnational Processes Sustaining and Transforming Healthy Eating among Latino Immigrant Families in San Francisco
Comiendo Bien: A Situational Analysis of the Transnational Processes Involved in Transforming Healthy Eating among Latino Immigrant Families in San Francisco
This situational analysis (Clarke 2005) examines the lay health practice of comiendo bien (eating well) among 15 Latino immigrant families living in San Francisco and identifies the transnational situations and processes that sustain and transform this practice. This dissertation is conducted to challenge health research that attributes changes in immigrants' diet to US acculturation. I assert that modernized changes to Latinos' diets are transnational in scope and are already occurring in Latin America. Two Latino immigrant community organizations in San Francisco assisted with the research design and recruitment of participants. Primary data sources consisted of participant observation and interviews with Latino immigrant families representing six Latin American countries. Interviews were conducted with persons who were responsible for buying and preparing food for their family. Secondary data sources consisted of nutritional research reports (2000-2007) from the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico and the Nutritional Institute of Central America and Panama and global fast food websites. All primary data were systematically analyzed using grounded theory coding and memoing (Strauss and Corbin 1998; Charmaz 2006). Comiendo bien is a social health practice focusing on how food is eaten and is thought to reduce the occurrence of illness and the use of medical services. It is also constitutive of other identity positions. Transnational processes sustaining comiendo bien in San Francisco are: 1) the rationale of reducing medical services; 2) engaging in diasporic communities; and 3) the enactment of motherhood. Transnational processes transforming comiendo bien are: 1) migration trajectories; 2) the modernization of food production and consumption; and 3) the increasingly transnational transmission of nutrition information. Conclusions suggest that researchers discern changes to Latino immigrant diets based on their pre-immigration experiences, not on US acculturation.