Mexican Railroad Workers in the United States, 1870-1930
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of North Texas Press
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Over a century ago railroads dominated the economic and physical landscape of the United States with 93,000 miles of track crisscrossing the nation. Who laid the tracks? Who kept the trains running, the lifeblood of national economic development? Railroad workers represented a diverse panorama including the Chinese, European immigrants, and African Americans. ...
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Former traquero Jesús Ramírez complained that “It is never in the books or papers that the Mexicans built the railroads. And we had no machines, only our hands.”1 It must also be stated that even Chicano historians have never included Mexican women as railroad workers, if not necessarily at work on the track, ...
1. Railroads and the Socioeconomic Development of the Southwest
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In popular lore of the American West, only Chinese and Irish workers built the railroads, laying track, digging tunnels, and building trestles and bridges. Indeed, this picture of track work in the West is true for the transcontinental railroad of 1869, but not for the decades to follow. ...
2. Labor Recruitment
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There was much work to do for the railroad,” former traquero Jesús Ramírez recalled.1 Ramírez was born in Silao, Guanajuato, in 1900, and left at the age of fifteen with his father to lay tracks in Kansas, working ten hours a day at ten cents an hour. Because of the lack of work in Mexico, and the unsettled conditions resulting from the Revolution, ...
3. Work Experiences
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In the 1920s, Mexican anthropologist Manuel Gamio collected various corridos from Mexican immigrant workers with the idea of capturing their hopes, fears, preferences and disappointments. As a form of oral history and Mexican working-class culture, corridos reveal much about life among the Mexican workers in the United States ...
4. Labor Struggles
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On April 24, 1903, a dramatic scene took place on Main Street in Los Angeles when more than thirty Mexican women (primarily the wives of strikers) confronted several dozen esquiroles (scabs) imported from El Paso by the Pacific Electric Railway Company (PE). Owned by Henry Huntington, the PE attempted to replace striking “cholo” laborers ...
5. Boxcar Communities
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Cleofas Calleros, an old-timer and retired Santa Fe depot official in El Paso, recalled the numerous Mexican track workers and section hands “whose groups of houses dot the desert from here to Los Angeles.”1 Indeed, as this chapter shows, traquero houses dotted not only the southwestern desert, but the entire line from El Paso to Chicago. ...
6. Traquero Culture
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This chapter examines cultural relationships among Mexican railroad workers and their families both at home and on the job. Furthermore, it shows how a Mexican working-class culture evolved to become a distinct railroad-worker culture inextricably tied to work on the railroad, especially track work.1 ...
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Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Mexican workers have been inextricably linked to the development of the Southwest. The mining, ranching, farming, timber, and manufacturing industries of this region all profited by the abundance of inexpensive labor from Mexico. ...
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Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 1 map
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: Al Filo: Mexican American Studies Series