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RISE: Mexican

Photo of Puerto Villarta view copyright by Puerto Villarta Chamber of Commerce.

When Christopher Columbus "discovered" the New World in 1492, he encountered many organized and prosperous communities. Within a lifespan, however, these indigenous people were defeated by a combination of European diseases and the metal weapons, horses and extreme cruelty of the Spanish conquistadors. The riches of Mexico attracted many Spanish settlers who intermarried with the native people.

 

Spanish Domination

Spain colonized not only the territory of modern day Mexico, but also one third of the present-day United States: California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Texas and parts of Utah, Arizona, and Colorado. In the early 1800's, the Anglo settlers pushing out the western boundaries of the US began coming into conflict with Mexico. In 1830, the Mexican government prohibited any further American immigration into Texas, but the Americans didn't stop.

 

In 1836 the Americans rose up against Mexican rule; they proclaimed their independence as the Lone Star State and were annexed by the US in 1845. Continued border skirmishes led to an invasion of Mexico. The treaty ending the war ceded the remainder of the current southwest third of the US. In one fell swoop, 100,000 Mexicans suddenly found themselves citizens of the United States. Because they had never even left home, they had little desire to learn English or shed their "foreign culture." Many still speak Spanish as their first language.

 

Seasonal Migration

About 50 years after the annexation, Mexican-Americans began migrating to Minnesota to find agricultural field work. Many came only for seasonal work, though some settled down to work in meat-packing plants or on the railroads. During the labor shortages of World Wars I and II, Minnesota encouraged Mexican-Americans to come to the state to fill the increasing demand for field workers.

 

Today migrant Mexican-American workers are crucial to the agricultural industry in southeastern Minnesota. They work both in the field to harvest crops and in the canning factories. When these jobs are completed, they move on to other areas of the country. Rochester is also home to an increasing number of Mexican-Americans who choose to seek permanent employment and stay here year around. Both they and the migrant workers are our connection to the rich culture they share with the international Spanish-speaking community.