- The Enduring Presence of Latinos in the Midwest
Our previous issue, Diálogo 20:2, related a history of the rise of Latino-focused journals since the mid-twentieth century, examining avenues they opened for research and creative work, and the impact they had on today's scholarship. Chicago and the greater Midwest, for example, was an important originating point for Puerto Rican, Black, and Chicano-oriented academic journals, for incipient publishing by Chicana writers, and where the first Latina feminist journal, Third Woman, was born.
Diálogo 21:1 delves into intricate histories of the Midwest, through the experiences and contributions of U.S. Latinos since the previous turn of century. These histories and continuing communities—seldom readily visible to a European origin–centric society—are meticulously described, providing enlightening perspectives for future studies.
This theme was conceived and directed by professors at the Julián Samora Research Institute (JSRI) at Michigan State University: the long-term director, Dr. Rubén Martínez, and current postdoctoral scholar, Dr. Juan Coronado. Since its founding, nearly three decades ago, the JSRI has represented an important institute for Midwest research. Named for the pioneering Mexican American sociologist and research scholar, who also helped found the precursor to the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), Samora's vision continues in initiatives and research accomplished by the JSRI in areas of Latino education, community and health outreach projects, labor, families, and youth. Dr. Martínez and Dr. Coronado's own research article, with excerpts from an oral histories project spearheaded by the JSRI, demonstrates examples and examines the great success of Latino entrepreneurship in Michigan as well as the impact of racial discrimination and intragroup relations.
The in-depth articles of two contributors relate early twentieth-century history in Kansas City, as it grew into an extensive metropolitan area, and in St. Louis, the "gateway to the West," each including insights on the type of work done by mostly Mexican heritage Latinos. Other articles reveal the unique patterns of Mexican enclaves, labor, social issues, and community building in diverse areas of Chicago: patterns of inequality throughout suburban neighborhoods; the educational experiences of first-generation Mexican American immigrants in Chicago; and an article describing the historic Pilsen neighborhood through the work of long-term artist Diana Solís and the creation of safe spaces for queer feminists.
Each of these studies demonstrates how Latinos helped build the structures of present-day cities, from their labor and entrepreneurship to projects in community revitalization, artistic visions, and a focus on social and community enhancement projects. The research articles are complemented by reflections and creative work. One book review offers perspectives on meatpacking plants in the Great Plains states, and work done by Maya-heritage immigrants, through their own oral histories; another brings attention to a recently published "Midwest reader," defining histories and activities in several states; each book would easily serve university courses. And a reflection article portrays memories of growing up in rural Nebraska in the mid-twentieth century. It has been a great pleasure to evaluate the rich material submitted in response to our call on issues for and about Latinos in the Midwest and to work with each contributor.
An interview is included with one of the authors of A Midwest Reader, a book which states that during the first decade of the twenty-first century, Latino population increased by more than 73% across eight Midwestern states. But that surge alone doesn't exemplify early contributions and residents. Latinos have always been in the Midwest, but their histories have been invisible, and previously not all populations have been counted.
Interestingly, 12 years ago, Diálogo v9 (in its earlier, annual format and publication) also chose to focus on the Midwest, and the topics for articles were somewhat similar, reflecting on language use and Chicago neighborhoods (Pilsen and Humboldt), multicultural [End Page 1] art, the custom of quinceañera celebrations, the illusion of Latino "inclusion," lesbian identity, and educational issues. In this issue, however, research studies delve deeper into Midwestern Latino roots, and the articles reveal important originating histories and longstanding civic, labor, and social contributions.
At the same time, actions...