Making the MexiRican City

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Large numbers of Latino migrants began to arrive in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the 1950s. They joined a small but established Spanish-speaking community of people from Texas, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Delia Fernández-Jones merges storytelling with historical analysis to recapture the placemaking practices that these Mexicans, Tejanos, and Puerto Ricans used to create a new home for themselves. Faced with entrenched white racism and hostility, Latinos of different backgrounds formed powerful relationships to better secure material needs like houses and jobs and to recreate community cultural practices. Their pan-Latino solidarity crossed ethnic and racial boundaries and shaped activist efforts that emphasized working within the system to advocate for social change. In time, this interethnic Latino alliance exploited cracks in both overt and structural racism and attracted white and Black partners to fight for equality in social welfare programs, policing, and education.

Groundbreaking and revelatory, Making the MexiRican City details how disparate Latino communities came together to respond to social, racial, and economic challenges.


Dr. Fernández is a historian of Latina/o history whose work focuses on how Latina/os use panethnic identity to garner more political, social, and economic rights in the twentieth century. Her research and teaching interests also include the intersections of race, ethnicity, and sexuality in American history. She is particularly interested in immigration, migration, labor, social movements and women’s history.