Sundown town to "Little Mexico": Old-timers and newcomers in an American small town

Eileen Diaz McConnell, Faranak Miraftab

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

For more than a century, communities across the United States legally employed strategies to create and maintain racial divides. One particularly widespread and effective practice was that of "sundown towns, " which signaled to African Americans and others that they were not welcome within the city limits after dark. Though nearly 1, 000 small towns, larger communities, and suburbs across the country may have engaged in these practices, until recently there has been little scholarship on the topic. Drawing from qualitative and quantitative sources, this article presents a case study of a midwestern rural community with a sundown history. Since 1990 large numbers of Mexican migrants have arrived there to work at the local meat-processing plant, earning the town the nickname "Litde Mexico." The study identifies a substantial decline in Hispanic-white residential segregation in the community between 1990 and 2000. We consider possible explanations for the increased spatial integration of Latino and white residents, including local housing characteristics and the weak enforcement of preexisting housing policies. We also describe the racialized history of this former sundown town and whether, paradoxically, its history of excluding nonwhites may have played a role in the spatial configurations of Latinos and non-Hispanic whites in 2000. Scholars investigating the contemporary processes of Latino population growth in "new" destinations, both in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas, may want to explore the importance of sociohistorical considerations, particularly localities' racialized historical contexts before the arrival of Mexican and other Latino immigrants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)605-629
Number of pages25
JournalRural Sociology
Volume74
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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