Chapter 2: North America
Article: “Central Washington’s Emerging Hispanic Landscape”
by Scott Brady
Vol. 47, No. 4, Spring 2004, pp. 15-20
Chapter themes reflected in the article: changing population composition, mobility, changing population distribution, wealth, and poverty
In 2000, approximately 35 million individuals, or 12%, of the U.S. population classified themselves as Hispanic (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census 2000). That number exceeds the Census Bureau's 1992 middle series projections for this group's 2000 population, and reflects Hispanics' growing importance in the United States (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census 1993). Most of the Hispanics (66.1%) are of Mexican ancestry. Almost one-half of Hispanics (44.7%) reside in the western U.S. (Therrien and Ramirez 2000). Historically, Hispanics of Mexican ancestry were geographically concentrated in the border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. However, during the past three decades Hispanics of Mexican ancestry have spread beyond the border region and comprise significant proportions of the populations of states as far-flung as Illinois, North Carolina, and Washington.
In the 1940s, two federal government projects initiated a transformation of the cultural landscape of Central Washington. The Columbia Basin Project (1946-1966) harnessed the waters of the Columbia River for hydroelectric power generation and, beginning in 1951, irrigation of more than 500,000 acres of shrub-steppe lands in the region (White 1995). Irrigation ushered in large scale, intensive fruit, hops, mint, onions and hay production in an area that formerly supported only dry land wheat farming and ranching. As a result, the area's cultural landscape has been altered dramatically during the last fifty years. Prior to the beginning of the Columbia Basin Project, the U.S. federal government negotiated an agreement with the government of Mexico that promoted the annual legal migration of seasonal agricultural laborers from Mexico to important agricultural regions of the western United States. This agreement, known as the Bracero Program (1942-1964), substituted Mexicans as seasonal workers for resident farm laborers who had joined the war effort during the Second World War (Gamboa 1990). The agricultural changes wrought by the Columbia Basin Project and the associated influx of large numbers of Mexican laborers under the Bracero Program led to significant Hispanic settlement in Central Washington. During the past 40 years Hispanics have exerted a growing influence on the region's demography and landscape.
Activity results are being submitted...