- Latino Heartland: Of Borders and Belonging in the Midwest by Sujey Vega
In the last twenty-five years, since the aftermath of the publication of Dinoicio Valdes Al Norte: Agricultural Workers in the Great Lakes Region, 1917–1970, various scholarship has documented the Mexican/Latino working class experience in the North American Midwest. Sujey Vega has recently added a new ethnographic history to the Mexican and Latino experience in Greater Lafayette, Indiana. Vega argues that ethnic populations have a rich cultural and political historical memory in central Indiana and that the Anglo-American farmer image is an imaginary representation (4). In analyzing the film Hoosiers (1986), the author adopted the concept of Latino Hoosier to identify this research subject matter. (5) Historically, scholars and popular mythologists have implemented the term Hoosier to identify a person from the farmlands of the state of Indiana (11). Vega contends that Mexicans and Latinos have experienced racial and class conflicts with their Lafayette Anglo-American counterparts. (12) The author supports this claim by employing archival materials, oral interviews, ethnographic observations, and secondary sources.
Vega began the writing process of this text by explaining how the Latino Hoosier is re-imagining the cultural production of the state of Indiana. (15) For instance, she examines the 2005–2006 anti-immigration policy HR 4437, which led to rise of the current Latino Hoosier pro-immigrant social and political movement. Vega spent most of this monograph contextualizing how Mexicans and Latinos impacted the historical, cultural, and social representations of the Hoosier heartland. Chapter one examines the making of race and class relations from late nineteenth and twentieth century European [End Page 94] immigration to 2006 (22). The next chapter provides a contextualization of the creation of Mexican and Latino Greater Lafayette community borders, which were designed by their Anglo-American counterparts (67). In chapter three, Vega discusses how the local citizens formulated a policing process and used print media to promote anti-immigrant sentiment toward the Latino population (99). The following chapter provides an overview of class and political conflicts and the culture of empire (135). Chapter five contextualizes anti-immigrant policies and the counter-hegemonic perspectives and activism of the Latino Hoosier (177). Finally, the concluding chapter summarizes the aftermath of the local anti-HR 4437 social movement and how the state of Indiana lawmakers and other states attempted to pass anti-immigration laws that challenge federal government policies and perspectives (218).
Latino Heartland has several strengths. Vega moves beyond the Southwest Latino experience in analyzing the making of the Latino Hoosier’s cultural and migration foundations in Greater Lafayette and the rest of Indiana. She includes a historical and ethnographic assessment of racial and class conflicts, including the contributions that Latinos made to the Midwestern landscape. The author’s research methodology is thorough, making great use of primary sources, its ethnographic examination is well constructed. Vega’s critical arguments regarding Latino community development and engagement offer a major contribution to scholarship on the subject. The book also has its weaknesses. Vega could have included more in-depth research and contextualization on workforce issues and a class analysis on the effects of the US culture on empire. Finally, Vega’s concluding chapter unsuccessfully offers the reader an analysis on how the anti-immigrant policies and the pro- Latino immigrant Movement will change the mainstream Hoosier cultural and political landscape. Nonetheless, Latino Heartland is a welcome addition to the body of scholarship and in the disciplines of Latina/o Studies and US Midwestern historiography.