Date of Award

2002

Degree Type

Report

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Advisor

Anne M. Butler

Abstract

In the late 1840s and early 1850s, the United States annexed over 800,000 square miles of formerly Mexican land. Boundary changes initiated by war and lucre thrust many Mexican people into the United States of America. The new political demarcation appeared artificial; Mexicans and Mexican Americans continued to travel to and from the new American southwest as they always had.

Migration to the United States from Mexico mushroomed after 1910, when a tumultuous revolution and poor economic conditions in Mexico encouraged Hispanics to look to the U.S. for jobs and stability. Mining industries, railroad companies, and farms in the United States demanded large numbers of unskilled and semi-skilled workers, and Hispanics proved a readily available labor source. Over time, Mexicans and Chicanos clustered in low paying, low-prestige jobs where they composed a large but obscure segment of the United States population.

Cache Valley, which stretched from northern Utah into southeastern Idaho, served as an example of a region where Hispanics played a vital economic role. Area farmers relied on sugar beets as an important cash crop, but successful beet cultivation required periods of such intense drudgery that farmers had to find wage-laborers to expedite the work. Farmers and sugar companies actively recruited Mexicans and Chicanos, and the region drew many migrants.

Cache Valley's Anglo communities depended on Hispanic farm labor, but migrants remained disconnected from the dominant Anglo population in important ways. Differences in class, race, and culture segregated the two groups and rendered the migrants largely invisible to many of Cache Valley's Anglo residents.

Recorded history demonstrated the workers' shrouded status. In spite of the longterm presence of Hispanic laborers in Cache Valley, written local histories dealt almost exclusively with the region's white citizenry. The rise to prominence of Chicano studies as a historical field underscored a pronounced need for research into the lives of Cache Valley's Hispanic population.

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