Chicago and Hispanic Immigration. Bradford Lardner. Chicago. Americans founded the city in 1832. The Chicago area's recorded history begins with the arrival of French explorers, missionaries and fur traders in the late 17th century.
Before the turn of the twentieth century, a few Mexicans and other Latin Americans came to Chicago, primarily as itinerants and entertainers. A few settled.
But the first large groups of Latino immigrants to Chicago and the Midwest were Mexicans who arrived as contract workers to replace soldiers and European ethnic workers during World War I.
These earliest immigrants quickly congregated in neighborhoods surrounding the industries that recruited them: South Chicago amid the steel mills; Back of the Yards near the meatpacking houses; and the Near West Side-Hull House area close to vast railroad networks and light industries like candymaking and clothing manufacture.
Until the early 1920s most new Mexican migrants to the city were single young men, but by the end of the decade the number of Mexicans had grown to almost 20,000, one-third of whom were, by then, women, children, and other family members. Manuel Gamio, a Mexican sociologist conducting research for the Social Science Research Council, and Paul S. Taylor, a young University of California economist, first told of the Mexican Chicago.
They discovered the several vibrant, growing, and rapidly established settlements, and chronicled the development of political, religious, and other cultural institutions and social networks which showed, despite some discrimination and economic hardship, Mexicans' rapid adaptation to long-established neighborhood practices of ethnic competition and succession.
Like immigrants who had preceded them, many of the newly arrived immigrants maintained strong ties to the Mexican homeland, conveying news in often short-lived newspapers, sponsoring rallies for competing candidates for the Mexican presidency, and, very early on, hosting celebrations of Mexican Independence and Cinco de Mayo