Exploring the Latino Metropolis: A Brief Urban Cultural History of US Latinos

Population Changes and Immigration Patterns in Latino Chicago


     Latino immigration to Chicago has undergone several stages which have lead to the transformation of the Latino population in the Chicago metropolitan region.  Dr. Michael Innis-Jimenez, a Clarence Mondale Fellow in American Studies at the University of Alabama, writes that the Mexican migration to greater Chicago began in the 1910's with the Mexican Revolution and picked up more in the 1920's as the Cristero War in Mexico caused people to flee form economic hardship and social unrest (21, 41).  Initially many worked as track workers for the railroad companies, which brought a huge wave of immigrants who settled near industrial Chicago's rail yards (Innis-Jimenez 21).  
     Steel yards, however, were arguably the most influential forces in bringing Mexican immigrants to Chicago.  The steel yards preferred them as strikebreakers and cheap labor to African Americans because there existed much less tension between Mexicans and whites than African Americans and whites (Innis-Jimenez 23, 46).  Furthermore, many European countries had immigration quotas placed on them by the American government at this time, but immigration from Mexico was unrestricted (Innis-Jimenez 23).  Adding to the conversation, Northwestern Journalism Graduate Jessica Binsch points out yet another reason for immigrants' journeys to Chicago: they're desire to move with their families.  Writers for the Journal of Urban Health published findings which further back this notion up: of any of the major ethnic groups in Chicago, Latinos had the best developed neighborhood social networks (Almeida).  As men of working age left Mexico for work, then began to settle in Chicago, they brought their family members and friends to join them (Binsch).  
       Binsch claims that her argument is still true today, and this claim is supported by Migration Policy Institute.  They claim that immigration has provided over three quarters of the growth to Cook County, where Chicago is located, and that Mexican immigrants make up the majority of these immigrants.  By 2000 Mexicans constituted 40% of the foreign born population, up from just 10% in 1960.  However, the Institute notes that their are now more foreign born people living in the suburbs instead of the traditional immigrant neighborhoods, suggesting that Binsch is correct in that people are immigrating and moving in with family members or friends.  The growth of Mexican immigrants in Chicago is likely to continue and help Chicago continue its own population growth, allowing it to maintain its status as a major world city (Migration Policy Institute)

Almeida, Joanna, Ichiro Kawachi, Beth E. Molnar, and S. V. Subramanian. "A Multilevel Analysis              of Social Ties and Social Cohesion among Latinos." Journal of Urban Health 86.5 (2009):                  745-759. Print.
Binsch, Jesica. "Related Links." Counting All Lations in Census a Challenge. Northwestern                          University, 10 Feb. 2010. Web. 07 Mar. 2016.
‚Äč"Chicago's Immigrants Break Old Patterns." Migrationpolicy.org. Migration Policy Institute, 01                Sept. 2003. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
Innis-Jiménez, Michael. Steel Barrio: The Great Mexican Migration to South Chicago, 1915-1940.            New York: New York UP, 2013. Print.


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