Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2012


Great Plains Research 22 (Fall 2012):123-35


© 2012 Copyright by the Center for Greot Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Growing Latino populations in midwestern cities of the United States are leading to the creation of contested ethnic spaces and urban landscapes. In this article we examine the historical, demographic, and social contexts associated with a growing sense of Latinidad and the countervailing Latino threat narrative in Kansas City and St. Louis, the two largest metropolitan areas in Missouri. Latinidad, or a notion of belonging based on ethnic identity in Missouri, is being challenged by nativist discourses that frame the growing Latino population as a threat. We highlight the different historical trajectories and geographical characteristics that have created distinct demographic profiles among the emerging Latino populations of Kansas City and St. Louis. These demographic profiles reflect the historical and geographic specificities of each city, but also highlight the ways that the Latino populations in two geographically proximate urban areas in the Midwest can have different trajectories. Finally, we outline three instances of Latino struggles for social and/or political recognition in Missouri, and suggest that the meaning of Latino population growth for both cities will be contested through the conflicting discourses of Latinidad and Latino threat.