Hope: Latino Migration Story


A second wave of migration in DeKalb County started in the 1960s. This group was migrants from Mexico and Southern Texas. These workers picked asparagus until July 1, harvested tomatoes or applied fertilizer and weeded fields of seed corn from July to August, and worked in canneries through October. By 1967, as many as 1,500 seasonal migrants travelled to DeKalb County. Many full-time workers lived in free housing provided by farmers; part-time employees paid $50 to $60 per month to live in camps on farms. Most lived in dire poverty on around $1,200 per year, while others earned less than $2,500 a year.

DeKalb County Migrant Ministry formed in 1964 to address four areas of need: health, education, poverty, and spirituality. Its first core program was Family Night, in which 45 volunteers visited nine camps. These events drew over 1,000 children to play, make crafts, read, hear stories, and enjoy snacks. By the late 1970s, many seasonal workers settled in DeKalb, Sycamore, Kingston, Hinckley, Lee, and Waterman. As some needs diminished, the ministry became the Children’s Learning Center, which continues to provide early education and child care in a safe, nurturing environment.

Between 1970 and 1990, the county’s Latino population increased by 378%. From 1990 to 2000, the community grew another 150%, accounting for at least 6.5% of the county’s population. Instead of farming, new migrants often worked in factories, restaurants, construction, hotels, meat processing, and metal fabrication. Migration continues to add residents to our county today.

Featured image: Illinois periodicals online, 10/August 1995/Illinois Issues, https://www.lib.niu.edu/1995/ii950810.html, accessed 6.26.2022.

Top: Dekalb County Journal, Sept. 11, 1968. Middle and Bottom: DeKalb County Journal, Oct. 16, 1968.

For more information on census records during the Latino Migration, click here.

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