Hope: Latino Migration Story, using census records


While the larger trend of Latinos coming to DeKalb County starts in the 1960s, there were census records listing railroad workers born in Mexico as early as the 1930s. 

According to the 1930 census there were several Mexican families in the following townships: 24 in Cortland, 7 in DeKalb, 29 in Franklin, 6 in Sandwich, 3 in Shabbona, and one in Sycamore.  This image from a census page shows Mexican families from Franklin Township in 1930. Take a close look at the location written along the left side of the page “C M & St. Paul R.R. boxcar” (refers to Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad). As the summary of the film “Boxcar People” explains, “The railroad companies looked south, offering displaced Mexicans a job and a place to raise a family … a home in the form of a boxcar” [1]. This was not an uncommon occurrence during this time period, and communities often formed around these boxcars.   

[1] Boxcar People, https://www.wtvp.org/local-programs/boxcar-people/accessed July 11, 2022. For more information see the “Outside Resource” tab regarding boxcar communities. 

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