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Idaho Humanities Council speaker Hodges to deliver lecture “Idaho’s Mexican American History” at noon on Nov. 12

Posted November 9, 2009

Kathy Hodges of the Idaho Humanities Council will deliver the lecture "Idaho’s Mexican American History" at noon Thursday, Nov. 12, in the Pond Student Union Wood River Room.

The lecture is sponsored by Idaho State University Student Affairs Social Justice Committee.

According to Hodges, Mexican Americans have lived in Idaho since at least the 1860’s, and there is documented evidence of distinct Mexican communities throughout Idaho history. Mexicans from California drawn to Idaho’s gold rush made a living as miners, mule packers, and vaqueros.

During and after World War I, Mexicans fled the violence of a revolution at home, coming to Idaho to work in an expanding agricultural economy. During World War II, Mexican laborers worked in an expanding agricultural economy, helping to harvest Idaho’s crops, maintain railroads, and fight forest fires, while the Mexican Air Force trained in Pocatello.

In the 1950s, Mexican Americans from Texas found jobs in Idaho’s new food processing industry, as well as work in the fields. By the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, as the state’s economy diversified, many people of Latino descent opened their own businesses or entered professions. Beginning in the 1970s, changing immigration laws and international economic forces propelled a new group of Mexican immigrants to Idaho.

Meanwhile, descendents of all the earlier groups of people have remained, and their lives are woven into Idaho’s heritage. This presentation is generously illustrated with photographs, including portraits of early pioneers and scenes from lavish fiestas in the 1950s.