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Latino immigration to the Midwest during the twentieth century has received significant attention from historians, but most have focused on the early and middle decades of the century. The later decades of the twentieth century, when a significant new wave of Latino immigration brought many new arrivals to small rural communities have received less attention. This study examines the intersection of the restructuring of the meatpacking industry and Latino immigration to rural Midwestern communities from 1960 to 2000. Dakota County, Nebraska--home to the flagship operation of Iowa Beef Packers, Inc. (IBP) from 1964 until the company was sold to Tyson, Inc. in 2001--provides a case study to explore how changes in technology and industry practices required a constant flow of low-wage laborers to produce cheap meat for American consumers and how communities changed as immigration and a settled Latino population increased.
The late twentieth century connection between immigration and the meatpacking industry was just one in a string of waves of migration from Central America, Mexico, and other regions which brought laborers to the Midwest. Latino (and other) immigrants were drawn to the Midwest throughout the twentieth century by job opportunities in agriculture, railroads, and industries. Immigrant experiences in Dakota County after 1969 shared some features with earlier waves of migration, including the importance of family, neighbors, and religious groups in easing newcomers’ transition to a new home. This study draws on a variety of sources, including oral history interviews with community members, and details the connections between the industry that attracted many new immigrants and their experiences as they settled in small towns in overwhelmingly rural areas.
Adviser: Andrew R. Graybill