Delia Fernandez, Michigan State University and Max Felker-Kantor, DePauw University | Newberry

Delia Fernandez, Michigan State University and Max Felker-Kantor, DePauw University

Friday, October 20, 2017


Borderlands and Latino/a Studies Seminar

Delia Fernandez–Forming Latinidad and Claiming Space in a Midwest City: Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1940-1975

This paper examines how Mexicans and Puerto Ricans utilized their panethnic relationship to make space for themselves in a geography of exclusion. When Mexican Americans from Texas and Puerto Ricans arrived in West Michigan, a very conservative area, in the 1940s and 1950s, respectively, they came at the behest of labor recruiters. They looked for improved economic conditions and opportunities. While they found some better conditions, they also found segregated neighborhoods and a shared racialization with one another as an in between group among the black and white racial dichotomy in the city. In this smaller city, without many options, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans lived and worked near and with one another. This led them to building relationships with one another and forging shared recreational, religious, and cultural spaces. They not only formed a panethnic identity as Latinos, but they also transformed Grand Rapids into a livable place for themselves. These very public representations of their community like public dances, Latino baseball games, and most evidently through festivals and parades, challenged the idea that Latinos did not have a claim to space in the Midwest and in Michigan.

Max Felker-Kantor–Policing the Internal Border: Enforcing Order and the Criminalization of Immigrants in Los Angeles

During the 1970s and 1980s, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) responded to new waves of immigrants and refugees from Mexico and Central America in ways that shaped conceptions of race and citizenship in the city. Despite Special Order 40, which stated that officers would not make arrests based on immigration status, the police evaded these limitations by blaming immigrants and refugees for a rise in crime and violence. In the process, the LAPD not only criminalized Latino immigrants and refugees but also expanded its discretionary authority to enforce a social order characterized by economic inequality and racism.

Cost and Registration Information 

Newberry Scholarly Seminars are pre-circulated. For a copy of the paper, email Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.