Reimagining Latino Geographies: Historicizing Midwest and Southern (Im)Migration
Conference on Latin American History 40
As numerous scholars have shown being “Latino” has never been a homogenous group, differences in paths to immigration, citizenship status, ethnicity, generation, gender, color, class, and race all make it clear that “Latinos” are far from monolithic. This panel adds another important category that list: geography. We demonstrate that, in the 1930s to the 1970s, being Latino in California, Texas, New York, or New Jersey, for example, is very different than being Latino in the Midwest and in the South. The study of immigrants and migrants in these new locales will allow us to articulate new formations of “latinidad” that complicate our understandings of what constitutes a “Latino” community and “Latino” history. We explore the multifaceted ways that immigrants make community and form identity in different locales. Geography, specifically local context and space, are important factors in shaping the nature of “Latino” identity construction. Instead of focusing on the West and Southwest this panel turns to the South and the Midwest as important sites of Latino history and in turn expands the geographical parameters of Latino history.
Though have been numerous social science studies that examine the growing populations of Latinos in pockets outside of common locales in the 1990s to the present, this panel demonstrates that Latinos rarely enter a space without some history that preceded them. In historicizing Latino experiences in nontraditional locations, we reveal how Latinos adjusted to their new homes in Chicago, Michigan, and the South, long before the contemporary immigration waves that these areas have experienced. Analyzing foodways and cultural production across these areas illustrate the ways in which Latinos experienced overt racism and resistance to assimilation. These hostile environments also led different groups of Latinos to form panethenic alliances with one another as they created effective strategies navigate such a terrain. These areas have also ascribed to a rigid black and white racial dichotomy. The influx of Latinos, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, forced the predominant communities renegotiate their own racial boundaries as they integrated, assimilated, or segregated the new immigrant communities.
These histories of the intersection of region, race, and Latinidad help us better conceptualize the historical taxonomies of race and ideas of belonging that new immigrants encounter today. As new immigrants from across Latin America continue to settle away from coastal areas, this panel serves as a timely discussion of pressing current issues.These works adds depth to our understanding of Latino experiences and fills a gap in the literature as it addresses Latinos outside of the Southwest and Northeast. We can use Latino responses to discrimination at mid-twentieth century to examine how current Latino immigrants experience the same issues. This current wave of immigrants, while certainly facing new challenges given their large numbers, are not entering into these new communities in a historical vacuum. Rather, as our panel will show, they are coming into communities with much longer, more complex Latino histories.