August 7, 2007 – Linda to Mexico

The Northwest Area Foundation along with University of Iowa Institute for Support of Latino Families and Communities, and the Main Street Project has instigated a four-state, four-year project focused on building community capacity in rural Latino communities in Iowa, Minnesota, Idaho, and Oregon.

One of the goals is to find ways to integrate Latino immigrants into their new communities.  Part of the process is for people in the communities that are receiving the immigrants to have an understanding of the background and culture of the immigrants in order more smoothly make new connections to their new homes.  Linda was asked to apply for a cultural exchange/immersion as one of three representatives from Marshalltown.  In her role at the college in working out a way to get new farmers started through classes, social support and most importantly, having land adjacent to the college to rent to new farmers, Latino immigrants may be one of the main groups of people who may be interested in starting a farming enterprise.  So this fall, she heads off with folks from 4 towns, (in Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, and Idaho) to a rural Mexican area to visit with and understand the background of the immigrants.

After initial resistance, Marshalltown has finally realized that a prosperous future depends on using all their assets, including the huge influx of immigrants.  There is no doubt that Marshalltown will soon have a much different flavor than the rest of the primarily white population of the rest of the state.  For example, more than half the births at the Marshalltown hospital are to Latino parents.  Already many of the previously empty storefronts on Main Street are now bustling with the activity that Mexican grocers, eateries, clothing, and other businesses afford.  In fact, a prominent downtown businessman told me that the influx of immigrants has revitalized a struggling town, now growing slightly instead of losing residents to old age or export to larger urban areas.  There certainly have been challenges, particularly in the school system and resources needed to get students up to speed with English and other skills, but 20 years from now, the consensus seems to be moving towards looking at the immigration as a positive boost to the community.
one year ago…