Past Event

Early Mexican Settlements in Railroad Boxcar Communities in Greater Chicago, Illinois, and the Midwest

A Road Scholar Program by Antonio Delgado

Railroads were essential to the growth and development of the United States. Since the 1910’s, throughout the U.S. and particularly the Midwest, very large numbers of Mexican immigrants were employed by the railroads. Mexican immigrant railroad workers and their families literally lived on railroad property, in railroad boxcars and “section houses.”

The audience will learn about these railroad boxcar communities populated by Mexicans in the Chicago metro area and the Midwestern states of Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas, particularly during the period between 1910 and the 1950s.

The presentation will highlight the vibrant social and cultural life of these Mexican settlers who lived in the railroad boxcar communities. It will also include discussion of the injustices and challenges of living in an often-prejudicial environment.

The goal of this presentation is to highlight the positive contributions of Mexican railroad workers to the development and growth of the Midwest in the early to mid-twentieth century. It will compare anti-immigrant practices experienced by these early Mexican settlers with similar occurrences today. Integrating these missing pages of history will foster a greater understanding and appreciation of our Mexican and Mexican-American neighbors. Historical photographs, maps, political cartoons, and other period images, combined with historical analysis, will tell this important, yet little-known American story.

The presentation is suitable for general audiences and all age groups and is available in English, Spanish, or a bilingual format.

This event is Free and Open to the public. For more information, please contact Larissa Distler at