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Barrios Norteños

St. Paul and Midwestern Mexican Communities in the Twentieth Century

By Dionicio Nodín Valdés

Publication Year: 2000

Mexican communities in the Midwestern United States have a history that extends back to the turn of the twentieth century, when a demand for workers in several mass industries brought Mexican agricultural laborers to jobs and homes in the cities. This book offers a comprehensive social, labor, and cultural history of these workers and their descendants, using the Mexican barrio of "San Pablo" (St. Paul), Minnesota, as a window on the region. Through extensive archival research and numerous interviews, Dionicio Valdés explores how Mexicans created ethnic spaces in Midwestern cities and how their lives and communities have changed over the course of the twentieth century. He examines the process of community building before World War II, the assimilation of Mexicans into the industrial working class after the war, the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and more recent changes resulting from industrial restructuring and unprecedented migration and population growth. Throughout, Valdés pays particular attention to Midwestern Mexicans’ experiences of inequality and struggles against domination and compares them to Mexicans’ experiences in other regions of the U.S.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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p. v

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pp. vii-viii

I wish to thank friends, colleagues, and students who have long reminded me of the compelling need to write an urban history of midwestern Mexicans. The vast scale of such a project, combined with the practical and theoretical utility of a specific focus convinced me to offer a local history, in which St. Paul’s West Side, the oldest and largest barrio in Minnesota...

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pp. 1-5

This is a history of Chicanos and their spaces in the urban Midwest during the twentieth century, with a specific focus on the West Side of St. Paul, ‘‘called ‘San Pablo’ by the Mexicans,’’ as one English-speaking investigator observed in 1927.1 It stems in part from my earlier investigation of the history of farmworkers in the Great Lakes region. My original...

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1 Mexican Inequality and the Midwest

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pp. 6-21

I seek to accomplish two major objectives in this book. The first is to reconstruct the twentieth-century history of midwestern Mexican urban communities, with a particular focus on St. Paul, Minnesota. The second is to discuss group inequality, a central theme in Chicano studies social science literature. It is paradoxical that attention to the topic has attracted...

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2 Reckoning with Winter

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pp. 22-86

Industrial expansion in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries unleashed a phenomenal rate of urbanization in the heartland of the United States, led by Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, and two pairs of urban twins, the Kansas Cities of Kansas and Missouri, and Minneapolis and St. Paul. Immigrants from Europe filled the needs of the handful of...

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3 Memory of Hunger [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 87-128

Midwestern Mexicans had established only a tenuous presence in the region following World War I and were particularly vulnerable to the ravages of the Great Depression. As part of President Herbert Hoover’s national campaign to ‘‘Hire American,’’ Mexicans quickly were ‘‘eked out by white labor’’ with the assistance of nativist politicians and the dominant media. Unable to continue providing for the needs of their unemployed...

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4 Good Solid Workers

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pp. 129-177

The United States entry into World War II marked the heyday of monopoly capitalism, a generation-long era of economic growth and expanding production led by the major midwestern cities, which peaked in population in the early 1950s. Resolution of the struggles between capital and labor during the Great Depression allowed workers access to a greater share of the fruits of prosperity. Large industrial...

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5 El Movimiento: Becoming a Little More Militant

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pp. 178-212

More than half the Mexican population of the Twin Cities area resided on the Lower West Side of St. Paul when the urban renewal project that razed their neighborhood began. The rigid segregation of earlier decades had already begun to break down,and some officials considered it likely that they would quickly disperse into working-class neighborhoods throughout the metropolitan area. Instead,most chose to follow a few neighbors who...

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6 Completing a Circle

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pp. 213-270

Profound changes in the world economy in the final decades of the twentieth century inaugurated another cycle in the history of midwestern Mexicanos. Rearranged labor markets, altered patterns of work, and accelerated migration from Mexico contributed to the growth of established barrios, the appearance of new colonias, and a more diverse population. The changes also stimulated a complex range of reactions within dominant...

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pp. 271-278

The Mexican presence in the twentieth-century Midwest belonged to the third major cycle of migration and settlement from the former Mexica heartland that accompanied the articulation of the modern world system. The first, marked by the Spanish conquest in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, was stimulated by a search for accumulated riches and...


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pp. 279-312


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pp. 313-360


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pp. 361-380

E-ISBN-13: 9780292797918
E-ISBN-10: 0292797915
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292787438
Print-ISBN-10: 029278743X

Page Count: 406
Illustrations: 20 b&w photos, 5 maps
Publication Year: 2000

OCLC Number: 560579972
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Barrios Norteños

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Mexican Americans -- Minnesota -- Saint Paul -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Saint Paul (Minn.) -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Mexican Americans -- Minnesota -- Saint Paul -- History -- 20th century.
  • Hispanic American neighborhoods -- Middle West -- Case studies.
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