Early Migration

Somos de Wichita/We are Wichitans

From Mexico to Kansas

In the early decades of the twentieth century, groups of Mexican workers arrived in Kansas to work for the railroad. Some came directly from Mexico for economic opportunities or to escape the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution. Others came from neighboring states in the U.S. Initially, companies hired seasonal workers who were expected to return to Mexico. By the 1910s, however, these men and their families started to settle down, forming barrios near the railroad tracks. The first barrio in Wichita emerged near Kellogg among workers who had helped construct Union Station. Later, Mexican workers found jobs in Wichita’s meatpacking plants at Broadway and 21st streets.

A group of people in overalls posing for a photo in front of a steam train

Mexican and Mexican Americans initially came to the region to work on the railroad, as this crew illustrates. Courtesy Minjarez family

A close up of text on a white background
Courtesy U.S. Census

This census tract from Chautauqua County in 1910 shows a Missouri Pacific Railroad Crew that was half Mexican and half Turkish. How do you think those crews would have gotten along?

A group of people standing in a building
Courtesy Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum

In places like Newton, Mexican Americans tended to stay tied with railroads. In Wichita, however, the meatpacking plants like Dold and Cudahy offered other opportunities.

City News Today - Move the village - the mexican village on the Santa Fe near Kellogg Street must be moved further south. The new railroad yards planned by the Wichita Union Terminal Railway Company will take up this little village conducted on the Mexican plan. They have a common cook stove — a large stone oven which serves 20 families. Each family takes turns using it at the noon hour. Chickens, geese and ducks, numerous dogs and a goat now and then roam at will through their quarters. It is a happy family although not obeying the laws of modern sanitation. The railroad company will build them new quarters south of the viaduct.
Courtesy The Wichita Eagle

This image from the Wichita Beacon from 1914 describes the one of the first barrios near what is today the downtown arena.

A close up of text on a white background
Courtesy U.S. Census

This page from the 1910 census of Wichita shows several Mexican families who were working the meatpacking plants. Notice that their neighbors were not Latino.

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