In our investigation of the Missouri-Kansas state line, we found that many of the Hispanic communities on both sides in the Kansas City area have a long history, dating back to the mid-1800s.
These communities have undergone huge changes — economic, geographic and demographic — throughout the past century that have shaped who the communities are today.
In order to better understand how these communities evolved, we spoke with historian Gene Chavez and city planner Daniel Serda about some of the most important events that affected the lives of Hispanics living in Kansas City on both sides of the state line.
1830 — The newly formed Republic of Mexico opens up trade with the United States via the Santa Fe Trail, creating a corridor for Mexican immigration into the United States. Many settle in Kansas and Missouri.
1900 to 1914 — The Kansas City Southern railroad is completed, providing a direct north-south route from Kansas City, Mo., to the Gulf of Mexico. It joins the Santa Fe Railroad and the Frisco Railroad in Kansas City, Kan., as one of the major railroad companies in the Kansas City area. By 1914, there are more than 12 rail lines entering Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo. Railroad companies recruit Mexican workers to help maintain railroads and many of the first Hispanic communities begin as a compact group of railroad workers living in actual rail yards in boxcars. These neighborhoods are situated primarily in Argentine, Armourdale, and Rosedale in Kansas, and Westside and West Bottoms in Missouri.
1909 to 1919 — The Mexican revolution serves as a push factor for more than 1 million Mexicans to the United States, many of whom came to the Kansas City area because of opportunities for hard labor.
1914 to 1917 — As sentiment towards Eastern European immigrants begins to change in the years leading up to World War I, Mexican labor is sought by meat-packing plants, steel mills and railroads.
1942 — The United States signs a treaty with Mexico to alleviate the shortage of labor due to the economic and social upheaval from the Great Depression and World War II. The Bracero Program allowed Mexican workers to enter and work in the United States on a temporary basis. The Spanish word, bracero, means "one who works with his arms." Many Mexicans are transported to the United States on boxcars.
1951 — In July, floodwaters sweep the Kaw River valley, wiping away Hispanic neighborhoods, such as Armourdale on the Kansas side, and the West Bottoms in Missouri, forcing Latino families to relocate to higher ground. Many of these Hispanic families do not return to rebuild, but rather remain in communities such as Westside, Rosedale and Argentine.
1990s — A surge of new immigrants from Central America and Mexico revitalizes Kansas City’s most established Hispanic communities. Armourdale is repopulated with new Latino immigrants. Many immigrants resettle in corridors, such as Central and Minnesota Avenues in Kansas, and Independence Avenue in Missouri.
This look at the Missouri-Kansas state line is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.
We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what’s being done to bridge or dissolve them. Be a source for Beyond Our Borders: Share your perspective and experiences on the state line with KCUR.