Latino social network dynamics and the Hurricane Katrina disaster

Authors

  • DeAnne K. Hilfinger Messias,

    1. PhD, RN, FAAN is Professor at the College of Nursing and Women's and Gender Studies Program, University of South Carolina, United States
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  • Clare Barrington,

    1. PhD, MPH is Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, United States
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  • Elaine Lacy

    1. PhD is Professor at the Department of History, Political Science and Philosophy, University of South Carolina Aiken, United States.
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Correspondence
DeAnne K. Hilfinger Messias, Professor, College of Nursing and Women's and Gender Studies Program, University of South Carolina, 1601 Greene Street, Columbia, SC 29208, United States. Telephone: +1 803 777 8423; fax: +1 803 777 5561; e-mail: deanne.messias@sc.edu

Abstract

The aim of this qualitative research was to examine the dynamics of existing and emerging social networks among Latino survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Data were generated through individual, in-depth interviews conducted with 65 Latinos within six months of the storm striking the Gulf Coast of the United States in August 2005. The findings illustrated both the role of social networks in gathering information, making decisions and accessing resources, and how these existing social networks were disrupted and strained by overwhelming needs. Broader structural issues, including poverty and a lack of transportation, combined with marginalised status as immigrants, further constrained access to essential information and resources. In response, new, if temporary, social networks emerged, based primarily on shared nationality, language, and a sense of collective commitment. Practice implications include the need to consider the social network dynamics of marginalised groups in developing innovative strategies to overcome structural barriers to accessing resources essential for disaster preparedness and survival.

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