In the shadow of rusting grain elevators, the century-old brick downtown of Schuyler, Nebraska, is being reborn.
The old Didier’s Grocery is now The Latino Club. The abandoned Hardee’s has been occupied by the Dos Americas liquor shop. On Main St., what was the Ben Franklin True Value dime store is now La Chiquita, a shop filled with Mexican foodstuffs and crafts.
This small town in eastern Nebraska first settled by Czechs, German and Irish in the late 19th century has been transformed by a new wave of mostly Mexican migration during the past decade.
“The migration has caused a lot of culture shock among the long-time residents,” said Rodrigo Cantarero, a professor of housing and planning at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln who has studied the impact of Hispanic migration on Great Plains communities. “These are people that are not familiar with people who don’t look like them or talk the same. They feel a little bit like they have been invaded.”
In Schuyler, some migrants come from Peru, El Salvador, and increasingly from Guatemala. But the majority are Mexican, and most of them come from one town Chichihualco in the nation’s poor southern Sierra in the state of Guerrero, “There are few good jobs here,” said Chichihualco mayor Leopoldo Cabrera. “Everyone knows they can make a better living up there.”
The meatpacking industry which was formerly centered in stockyard cities like Omaha, Nebraska, Sioux City, Iowa, or St. Louis, Missouri has begun moving out to rural towns, closer to the cattle ranches. And these areas are new destinations for Mexican migrants who in the past went predominantly to Californian, Texas or Illinois.