The Marshallese in Arkansas and other unexpected diasporas

Dylan Thuras is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. Dylan is a travel blogger and the co-founder of the Atlas Obscura: A Compendium of the World's Wonders, Curiosities, and Esoterica, with Joshua Foer.

Marshallese Sea Turtle.png

A friend of mine just returned to the US after a year spent teaching, spear fishing, and eating giant clams in the Marshall islands. The Marshall islands are most known for being home to Bikini Atoll site of the U.S. nuclear tests. (It is also home to the Cactus Dome, a gigantic concrete slab built to cover the enormous pile of radioactive dirt left behind.) One of the interesting things my friend told me is that the largest group of Marshallese living outside the islands can be found at the foothills of the Ozarks in Springfield Springdale, Arkansas.

The Marshallese diaspora can be traced to one man, a Marshallese man named John Moody who took a job at Tyson Chicken in the 1980s. When he returned home to the islands, he let everyone know that there were jobs available at Tyson and that he would help people get setup in Springdale. Unfortunately the Arkansas Marshallese diaspora hasn't been much of a boon to the islands, with most of the money going out of the islands and into Arkansas to help with the expenses of America. Today roughly 6,000-8,000 Marchellese live in Springdale, and at a given time fifty percent of Tyson Chicken's floor staff are from the Marshall islands. The Marshallese do not generally wear shoes inside, and work at Tyson barefoot with mesh booties covering their feet. You will also note a large number of CB antennas on cars in the area as the Marshallese tend to use CB radios, as they do on the islands, rather then cell phones to communicate.

This also reminded me of another unexpected diaspora I had read about, the large Mennonite community in Belize. Roughly 10,000 Russian Mennonites live in Belize, farming the land and living according to their religious beliefs. All of which leads me to the question, what are some other unexpected diasporas around the world? A good overview of the Marshallese in Arkansas can be found here