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The social construction of a rural Latino immigrant ethnic identity: "The good definitely outweighs the bad"

Thomas Wayne Sanchez, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The Latino demographic explosion has hit the Northern Plains states, especially Nebraska. Official U.S. Census 2000 figures show a 155 percent increase in Latinos in the state between 1990 and 2000. These demographic changes, largely the result of technological changes in meat processing, have drawn Latinos to parts of the country where they were not previously represented in large numbers. ^ Numerous small towns in Nebraska were all “white” (Anglo or European American) in the early 1990s, but by 2004 had become home to a much larger percentage of Latinos. One such town is Schuyler, Nebraska, which experienced an official growth rate of 1,377 percent in the ten years between 1990 and 2000. By the year 2000 Schuyler was 42 percent Latino. I examine the processes used by new immigrant arrivals to identify themselves ethnically and in turn how ethnic self-identification affects their access to community resources. My hypothesis is that in towns such as Schuyler, with no recent history of foreign migration and, more importantly, with no history of non-European immigration, recently arrived Latino immigrants are not “allowed” to be “Americans” and thus are denied access to community resources. Among the general questions examined are: What is the value of the term American in rural northeast Nebraska and how can the experiences of the “non-Americans” help both newcomers and the resident whites cope with the new issues? Qualitative methods of open-ended interviews and participant observation are used along side U.S. Census data and other secondary sources. The town of Schuyler has two communities, one white and one Latino. “Social apartness,” whereby whites decide the terms of interaction is a reality. The study finds that while whites have hegemony in general, the differences among Latinos are often as big as those between Latinos and whites. Within the Latino community the hegemony of those from a small Mexican town, Chichihualco, is even more pronounced than that of Mexicans in general. ^

Subject Area

Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies|Hispanic American Studies

Recommended Citation

Sanchez, Thomas Wayne, "The social construction of a rural Latino immigrant ethnic identity: "The good definitely outweighs the bad"" (2005). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3186879.