Jorge Iber

in Latino Studies

ISBN: 9780199913701
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:

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  • History of the Americas
  • US Cultural History


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From the start of the “Chicano era” of political activism in the late 1960s, historians and other scholars writing the story of Mexican Americans (and other Latinos/Latinas) have, overwhelmingly, centered research (and rightfully so) on states such as Texas, California, Florida, and New York. This makes perfect sense, because it is logical to focus inquiries on locales where the greatest numbers of such individuals lived, worked, and played. Therefore, for around the next 15–20 years the majority of such research rarely strayed beyond a set of limited geographical boundaries. By the early to middle 1980s, however, it had become apparent that greater and greater threads of complexity existed within Latino communities of the United States, and thus began the study of issues such as internal class differences, religious diversity, and similar topics. In addition, another significant trend was to move research beyond locales previously studied. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, for example, several researchers took notice of the historical contributions of Latinos in the Midwest (in places such as Chicago, Detroit, and Indiana). Given the demographic and dispersal trends extant since the early 1980s, this academic trend is bound to continue. While there are now studies examining Latino life in varied locations, there are certain states still perceived as places where Spanish speakers have not, and will not, tend to settle. At first glance, Utah, even into the 21st century, with a mostly white and Mormon population, appears to be such a place. Those who make this assumption are greatly mistaken, because the Beehive State, as in most parts of the West, has a long-standing history of (at least initially) Mexicano settlement, with other groups coming later. The industries that drew the early pioneers are not a surprise: railroads, agriculture, and mining. One major motivation attracting Latinos to Utah is different from elsewhere, however: religious affiliation. As noted in an early historical project on this topic (see Iber 2000, cited under General Overviews), Utah is one place where newly arrived individuals from Spanish-speaking nations can instantly connect with the most powerful institution (and network) in the locale, simply by embracing a set of spiritual beliefs.

Article.  4290 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; US Cultural History

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