­­Sociolinguistic landscapes of Princeton (New Jersey), by Mariana Bono

This photograph, taken a few blocks away from Princeton University campus,  depicts a store offering multiple services: cellphones, wire transfers, tax filing. While Spanish signs are prevalent, the English words “income taxes” unmistakably situate this sociolinguistic scene in the United States.

In the culture of mobility that is the hallmark of late capitalism, the migrants who frequent these stores are subject to a double imposition: they are expected to pay their income taxes, a condition or pre-condition for citizenship, but they also have a duty to contribute to the livelihood of the families left behind in Central and South America, in the form of remittances, hence their need for money transferring services. The presence of English and Spanish in this image indexes their obligation to contribute here and there.

Soon after Donald Trump’s election, signs like this one, in Spanish, English, and Arabic, began to appear in front yards in Princeton and other American towns and cities.

In yet another unmistakably American move, the idea of these signs originate at a local Immanuel Mennonite Church, in Harrisonburg, VA (their motto: Real people following Jesus’s radical call to love and service). According to their Facebook page, the sign comes from their deep rooting in faith: “We choose to reach out to our neighbors and neighborhoods, welcome those who come from different backgrounds and places, and practice hospitality through the open doors of our communities.”

Interestingly, the sign is for sale at https://www.welcomeyourneighbors.org. For $21.95, you can “make a statement in this time of division about our desire to be welcoming communities.” All proceeds from sign sales go to a non-profit in your local community as another step in building a welcoming community.

Photo credits: Leo Vasallo and Dave Malinowski.

Mariana Bono, Princeton University, USA

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