Other Travelers – Part 3 – “Into the Beautiful North”, Latinos’ Migration from Southern Countries to the United States, and Me

Other Travelers – Part 3 –  “Into the Beautiful North”, Latinos’ Migration from Southern Countries to the United States, and Me

(Part of the Series – “Other Travelers”)

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn – SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter


September 15 – October 15, 2016 is a month dedicated to Latino History Month, and the NEA – BIG  READ Stateline:  “Into the Beautiful North”, by Luis Alberto Urrea.   (See you at the Latino Community Fair Saturday, September 17 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Beloit High School; and at some of the BIG  READ events and Book Discussions below.)

As the Library “Public Services Librarian”, I do have some non-partisan insight into how the Latino population (and other immigrants) are affected by immigration to the United States, and how they fit into the Wisconsin population and way of life. I represent the Library at some Latino meetings and events.

They are just one of the more recent immigrant waves of movement to the United States from many countries.  My degree in anthropology (and history) gives me some insight into how the immigrant experience affected our ancestors.  We need to understand this, to understand our family histories.

I do some of the minor translating at the Library for Spanish-speaking patrons.  There are two other staff that speak Spanish fluently.  Several staff have started using Google Translate to communicate in any language.  The Library staff tries to meet the needs of whoever our major immigrants are, (as have public libraries for more than 100 years.)  We try to help every one of our patrons (no matter what their circumstances) with improving their –  literacy, getting jobs, medical and legal questions, readers advisory, help on computers, learning a language, improving their education and skills, etc.  Public Libraries are the foundation of democracy.

We have a significant Spanish language collection of books, as we have a collection of books in Vietnamese.  Some of our databases and policies are in Spanish also.  Beloit, Wisconsin  has an unofficial 25% Latino population.  Most of them are from Mexico, then Costa Rico, and other Central and South American countries.

The Latino people, that I have meet, have been congenial, family-oriented people who try very hard to fit within the expectations of their new community.  They resolve missing Library items/late fines immediately and don’t want to be a bother in any part of their lives.  I have met a doctor, dentist, college professors and graduates, as well as farm laborers and everything in between, who have immigrated to the United States trying to improve the lives of their families.

The idea of a free Public Library is not common in their home countries.  Libraries are limited to only few, and have books chained or restricted from use.  The language, U.S. professional certification, and sometimes illegal entry, restricts them from easily working in their jobs, or becoming citizens

The more stringent traffic laws in recent years have constricted their ability to go to even the events in the area that are meant to help them become citizens.  A 2005 state law passed to comply with the federal Real ID Act, required applicants for a driver’s license to submit proof of citizenship or legal resident status. Any illegal immigrant can be immediately sent to jail and deported if they are stopped for any traffic infringement (even a burned out car light) and have no Drivers License.  They are afraid to leave their homes.  Parents have even been deported while children are left abandoned once they get home from school.  It puts police in a dilemma.

Yet Wisconsin especially is dependent on immigrants for our agricultural economy.  I.E. In 2009, they accounted for about 40 percent of the state’s dairy labor force, up from just 5 percent a decade ago.  Our farm crops are harvested by many migration workers who come for harvest season only.  Some factories have large immigrant staff.

They have to drive to get to work.  One solution has been proposed to have limited-use distinctive licenses issued to them which could be used for driving only and not for other identification verification purposes.

As with previous immigrant movements, (our ancestors from Europe, Asia, etc.) the recent groups tend to stay together in one area, where they can understand each other (language), resist the prejudices of “natives”, and help each other.  Just as in the up-coming Posting –  Other Travelers –  part ?  – The AfricanAmerican Great Migration Up North ( An Above-ground Railroad Migration by Former Slaves, and Their Grandchildren), and Me.  I have been told that (just as in those previous times) the new “others” are denied being able to easily buy houses unless they go to individuals who will sell to them.  Often the houses are in need of much repair, which the new owners work on, while several generations live together to afford the house.

My family represents the more recent immigrations with the various experiences of:  my daughter-in-law from Honduras, (with a Master’s Degree), who met my son in college, a brother-in-law from Mexico, and a grandson from Ethiopia.  My birth family hosted college holiday visits for a Chinese student when I was young.

The men who have left the Mexican village in the Big Read book, “Into the Beautiful North”,  do not intend to migrate to the United States, but to travel to work there for awhile.  They want to send their pay home to improve the lives of their families in Mexico.

It reminds me of childhood friends I had – our neighbors (with 6 children) had moved up from Arkansas to rent a tiny little house, and work hard in the Rockford, Illinois factories for four (?) years.  They moved back down to their Arkansas farm to built a large nice new farmhouse.  The small log cabin that they had lived in, went to their older son and his wife who had stayed home to take care of the farm.  We saw it when we visited and helped them pick cucumbers in the hot Arkansas sun, with a mud creek cool-down swim afterward.


Beloit Public Library

This coming month the Stateline area has also dedicated to exploring and celebrating reading “one book, one community” with a Big Read grant.  The book is “Into the Beautiful North”, by Luis Alberto Urrea.  A committee of several organizations have been working hard to obtain the grant which funds the gift of a free book to anyone in the community, and the programs to discuss that book together.

Into the Beautiful North” Summary:

Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the US to find work. Recently, it has dawned on her that he isn’t the only man who has left town. In fact, there are almost no men in the village–they’ve all gone north. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men–her own “Siete Magníficos”–to repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over. Filled with unforgettable characters and prose as radiant as the Sinaloan sun, INTO THE BEAUTIFUL NORTH is the story of an irresistible young woman’s quest to find herself on both sides of the fence.

NEA Big Read – Stateline

NEA Big Read

Follow The Big Read – Stateline!

Follow the NEA Big Read – Stateline on Facebook,

Find information about the book, the author, the historical context, discussion questions, and more on NEA Big Read’s page about “Into the Beautiful North.” Also available en español.


Check out the schedule of events!

See below. Event details also available on the Facebook page and our NEA Big Read page.


Into the Beautiful NorthRead the Book!

Free books in both English and Spanish are available at the Beloit Public Library, South Beloit Public Library, and Beloit College. Quantities limited.

eBooks and eAudiobooks available for checkout with your library card! Hoopla is available for Rock County library card holders.

Overdrive HooplaWisconsin's Digital Library




NEA Big Read - Stateline Complete Schedule


One thought on “Other Travelers – Part 3 – “Into the Beautiful North”, Latinos’ Migration from Southern Countries to the United States, and Me”

  1. How lucky the Stateline is to be chosen to do this BIG READ and that we all can be a part of it. The kickoff fiesta will have a mariachi band, the Even Start dancers and local dignitaries speaking; the author will actually be here (!); we have a Mexican Folk Dance Ballet troupe coming from the Chicago area; we will get to see Yul Brynner on the big screen in “The Magnificent Seven”, etc.


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