The Global Plains: Latina/os in the Past and Future of the American Great Plains

AHA Session 155
Sunday, January 5, 2020: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Chelsea (Sheraton New York, Lower Level)
Sandra Enríquez, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Valerie Martínez, Our Lady of the Lake University

Session Abstract

This multidisciplinary panel seeks to establish an ongoing conversation on Latina/o migration, labor, social justice work, and community formation in the Great Plains. Thus, due to the underdevelopment of scholarship regarding the plains’ Mexican people, the panel will explore narratives often at the margins of Great Plains, Labor, Migration, and Latina/o History as well as Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies. Sarita Garcia’s “Beyond Acquisitions: Building Relationships & the Nebraska Hispanic-Latina/o Heritage Archive” delves into the building of relationships between history practitioners and community members in order to preserve the Great Plains’ Latina/o History. Through visible and egalitarian relationships, community members offer their items and documents of historical significance for digitization. Participants then take their family and community heirlooms back home where they belong. Through this process, historians and community members democratize history while helping make a too often invisible Latina/o History visible. Bryan Winston’s paper, “Transnational Betabeleros: Sugar Beet Laborers and the Mexican Consulate in Western Nebraska during the Interwar Years” examines how ethnic Mexican institution building and workplace organizing created transnational space to expand Mexican autonomy in western Nebraska during the 1920s and 1930s. Migrants and their organizations negotiated the meaning of the Mexican Revolution and the Cristero War through fiestas patrias, religious worship, and correspondence with the Mexican consulate. Making sense of their relationship to Mexico while living outside of it allowed Mexican migrants to utilize their Mexican citizenship as a tool to pressure the Mexican government and local American officials and employers into expanding access to the necessities of everyday life. Examining the plains’ long-term history, Joel Zapata’s paper, “Mexicans in the Modern Southern Plains: Migration, Labor, and Community,” focuses on the economic and demographic significance Mexican people have played throughout the Southern Plains, which stretch from central Texas and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands of far west Texas to southeastern Colorado and southwestern Kansas. Tracing the region’s Mexican community from the early 1900s through the present, Zapata demonstrates how ethnic Mexican workers were crucial in bringing modernity to the Southern Plains during the early twentieth century as well as the continual growth of the Southern Plains’ economy. Moreover, beginning in the 1980s, Mexicans became the region’s replenishing population. Zapata argues that Mexicans have thus become the Southern Plains’ laboring, entrepreneurial, buying, and demographic dynamo. Overall, this panel demonstrates that the Great Plains have long exemplified the quickly changing demographics, labor currents, and social justice work now spreading throughout the United States.
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