Railroads and Latinos

Cristian Dona-Reveco Discussion

Dear colleagues. 

I am starting a community-engaged research project on Latino railroad workers on the Midwest. This is a project that we at the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Office of Latino/Latin American Studies are doing with/for the Union Pacific Railroad Museum. Our objective is to collect between 20 and 25 oral histories with former railroad workers from the Midwest/Great Plains regardless of whether they worked for Union Pacific or not. We have found extraordinarily little bibliography on this topic. Can anyone point us to some resources? 

So far we have only found:

  • Garcilazo’s Traqueros: Mexican Railroad Workers in the United States, 1870 to 1930;
  • Gamboa’s Bracero Railroaders; and
  • Driscoll’s The Tracks North.

 Any other authors who have worked on this topic or near this topic? I posted a similar message on Twitter recently and will cross post in other H-Networks.  Thanks!

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In New Mexico, American Latino late teenage to 20's men, trying to earn a cash dowery to get married would ride the railroad to any type of job. The problem was they were all farmers and payment was in crops and spending it was in barter. Amongst the Latino community, there was virtually no exchange of dollars. They called riding the rails: Vamos el Trampe. Usually 2 or 3 best friends would go. We did oral histories in our Agua Fria Village in Santa Fe County but had no actual experiences of them actually riding the rails. Just the indications that people went.

Dear Cristian,

You might be interested in contacting the BMWED, https://www.bmwe.org/default.aspx which is the union for the railroad workers, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division-International Brotherhood of Teamsters. You might also search in the George Meaney Memorial AFL-CIO Archive. There is also some literature on the Los Angeles railroad workers' strike and Mexican RR workers. You might look at the folklore of Latino railroad workers as a way to find materials folklorists have gathered about Mexican railroad workers.

Best of luck. It sounds like a great project.
Martha Norkunas

Thanks Martha!