Corazón de Dixie: Mexicanos in the U.S. South since 1910

Corazón de Dixie: Mexicanos in the U.S. South since 1910

Corazón de Dixie: Mexicanos in the U.S. South since 1910

Corazón de Dixie: Mexicanos in the U.S. South since 1910


When Latino migration to the U.S. South became increasingly visible in the 1990s, observers and advocates grasped for ways to analyze "new" racial dramas in the absence of historical reference points. However, as this book is the first to comprehensively document, Mexicans and Mexican Americans have a long history of migration to the U.S. South. Corazon de Dixie recounts the untold histories of Mexicanos' migrations to New Orleans, Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, and North Carolina as far back as 1910. It follows Mexicanos into the heart of Dixie, where they navigated the Jim Crow system, cultivated community in the cotton fields, purposefully appealed for help to the Mexican government, shaped the southern conservative imagination in the wake of the civil rights movement, and embraced their own version of suburban living at the turn of the twenty-first century.

Rooted in U.S. and Mexican archival research, oral history interviews, and family photographs, Corazon de Dixie unearths not just the facts of Mexicanos' long-standing presence in the U.S. South but also their own expectations, strategies, and dreams.


A dark-skinned man, his face under the shadow of a brimmed hat, leans back against a corrugated metal wall (fig. 1). A beer advertisement marks the place as a bar. In the distance, two still darker figures walk along an unpaved street in a commercial district. It is November 1949 at the close of the cotton picking season in Marked Tree, Arkansas. The setting is the black side of town; the man in the foreground is Mexican. A Mexican Foreign Service officer, Rubén Gaxiola, took this photo in the fall of 1949. He had it printed and added a caption: “Goldcrest Beer 51—Café-bar. Corrugated metal construction. At the side of this establishment there is a sign that says, ‘Garzias Mexicanas Servesa.’ In this place, blacks and also Mexicans are served.” Then the bureaucrat placed the photo in an envelope with nine other images documenting Mexicans’ racial position in Marked Tree and mailed it off to Mexico City, where another bureaucrat would review them and consider banning Mexican workers from Marked Tree’s cotton fields.

Why was this Mexican man picking cotton in Arkansas in 1949 when so many poor white and black people still lived there? What did he hope to achieve in Arkansas, and what were his experiences while there? Why did he willingly associate himself with a group, African Americans, that had been systematically subjected to violence and deprived of social, economic, and political power? What was a Mexican bureaucrat doing in Marked Tree, and why did he and other elite officials care about the racial position of this poor Mexican laborer in the first place?

These are new questions in the histories of the United States and Mexico. When Latino migration to the U.S. South became visible seemingly out of nowhere in the 1990s, the newness of this “Nuevo” South went unquestioned. Journalists asked, “Will fajitas replace Moon Pie?” as though Mexican food had no history in the region; anti-immigrant activists decried the coming of “Georgifornia,” as though Georgia itself had not relied on Mexican and Mexican American laborers for more than forty years. Extrapolating from individual case studies, some social scientists wondered whether anti-black prejudices born in Latin America would doom attempts at political coalition building while others pointed to possibilities for cooperation. Southern . . .

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