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  • The Latina/o Midwest Reader ed. by Omar Valerio-Jiménez, Santiago Vaquera-Vásquez, and Claire F. Fox
  • Jean Kayitsinga (bio)
The Latina/o Midwest Reader Edited by Omar Valerio-Jiménez, Santiago Vaquera-Vásquez, and Claire F. Fox. Champaign: U of Illinois P, 2017. 332 pp. ISBN: 9780252082771

In The Latina/o Midwest Reader, editors Omar Valerio-Jiménez, Santiago Vaquera-Vásquez, and Claire F. Fox provide readers with a variety of articles on Latinas/os in the Midwest. Comprising of an introduction, 18 substantive chapters, and an afterword, this book challenges views that Latinas/os are newcomers to the Midwest. Various experts apply methods ranging from ethnography and interviews to historical accounts and anecdotes of individuals and places, essays, and life histories to bring attention to the social, cultural, and economic dimensions of Latinas/os in rural and urban communities.

Through the term Latinoization, Louis Mendoza describes the ongoing process of demographic change over the last fifty years and its implications for society. He argues that there is a tension between resistance to the presence of Latinas/os and the need for their labor for the local economy, demonstrating how the new geography of Latina/o demographic change invites conversations about inclusion and exclusion that reflect regional histories, cultures, and social relations.

José E. Limón focuses on the internal migration of working-class Mexican Americans from Texas to the Midwest and back to Texas during the last century. Migrants journeyed from the cotton fields of South and Central Texas to the sugar beet fields of Michigan, the packinghouses of Omaha and Chicago, and the foundries of Indiana and Ohio. Many migrant workers established permanent residence in the Midwest, while others opted for working en el norte for periods of time and returning to Texas, often with residences in both places. His examples include religious beliefs, music, and writings—personal anecdotes and fiction, poetry, and essays.

Aidé Costa highlights the presence of Latinas/os in Lorraine, Illinois, where Mexicans have been present for over four decades and are the primary labor force that sustains the local broom industry. Costa indicates that through settlement and cultural practices, Latinos are reshaping the American heartland, a place they too call home. According to Costa, the changes in these new places create local discomforts that become implicated in policy and public discourses.

Michael Innis-Jiménez argues that Mexicans moved to South Chicago early in the twentieth century, attracted by the economic opportunities of the city. Many did not plan to stay, expecting to return to Mexico in a better economic condition. Like other immigrants, they experienced discrimination, ethnic prejudice, nativism, and racism. Undeterred, they maintained their cultural traditions and developed a sense of community. They created businesses and formed clubs, mutual-aid societies, and community-based organizations that improved their lives and mitigated the effects of discrimination.

Lilia Fernandez focuses on Mexican and Puerto Rican migrants who settled in the Midwest during the decade following World War II. The diversity of Latino immigrants increased because of civil wars, political instability, and austere economic conditions in Mexico, Central and South America, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. Like the early Mexican and Puerto Rican immigrants, new immigrants experienced barriers in employment, housing, and other areas. Public debates over the costs and benefits of new immigrants are echoed today in the "new" destinations in the Midwest.

Marta María Maldonado examines differences in the sense of belonging in the rural Midwest among Latinas/os in Perry, Iowa. Their views challenge dominant discourses and practices that exclude them from full participation in their communities even as they are welcomed as laborers. They see themselves as contributors to communities and the nation, and question their marginalization. Maldonado concludes that dominant notions of community and identity are likely to be challenged and reshaped through the everyday practices and perspectives of transcultural subjects.

Kim Potowski holds that continued growth of Latina/o populations and increasing diversity in ethnolinguistic groups make the Midwest a critical site for studying language and identity among Latinos. [End Page 129] Potowski advances three reasons why this is important: the Midwest has many Spanish-English dual-language schools and...


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