Latino Voices

Before the onset of Anglo settlement, generations of Hispanic, primarily Mexican, families lived in the area which now makes up the western U.S. Thus, the presence and history of Mexican American people is inevitably and closely related to the history of the state of Utah. Utah’s mainstream history, however, has largely failed “to consider the participation of Mexican American people....” This “oversight prevails even though Utah is an important part of the Southwest,” a territory that belonged to Mexico until 1848, the year in which the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed and Mexico lost half of its territory to the United States (Solórzano 1998: 81).

After 1910, the U.S. saw a rise in Mexican migration due to a “tumultuous revolution and poor economic conditions in Mexico.” Many Mexicans came to work in low paying railroad, mining and agricultural jobs where they “composed a large but obscure segment of the United States population” (Washburn 2002: 1). However, it was not until World War II that Utah would witness its first large wave of Mexican immigration. Designed to bolster the defense industry, Mexico and the United States established the Bracero Program, which allowed large numbers of Mexicans to work in the U.S. for short periods of time, and inevitably, for low wages (Váldes 2000: 99-136). Although the Bracero Program formally ended in 1964, workers from Mexico and other parts of Central America continued coming to the U.S., creating in Utah “an energetic Mexican-American culture…” (Mayer 1981: 133).

As of July 2012, more than 53 million Hispanics lived in this country, representing approximately 16% of the total U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau 2013). The Hispanic population is projected to reach 128.8 million by 2060; their combined voices will account for approximately 31% of the nation’s population (U.S. Census Bureau 2010).