La Movida’s 8th Annual Herencia
We are all Wisconsinites
Wisconsinites, who through their labor have transformed blood, sweat, and tears into the economic and industrial infrastructure that is enjoyed by us all,” Ibarra said. “We honor them by
recognizing this heritage that is rooted in work, struggle, and community building and, as importantly, we honor this community’s heritage by respecting their place as equal members in
Ibarra’s ancestors are from Mexico. And regardless of their status, they followed the same economic and migrant labor stream that many documented and undocumented workers follow
“My great grandparents and their generation were labor migrants,” Ibarra said. “In the early 1900’s, many of them worked building the railroad tracks that connected East to West and
South to North and in basic industries like steel; mining and smelting raw materials used to build the Unites States and Mexico’s infrastructures during this historical period of
modernization. Stories about their trials and tribulations have been passed down by our family elders — generation to generation. I remember hearing about my ancestor’s experiences,
while migrating for work to places in Texas, California, Kansas and Pennsylvania. I would become very sad and angry each time I heard about their dealings with labor exploitation,
racism and xenophobia, many of the same issues immigrant and non-immigrant workers face today.”
Ibarra traced his family’s history From Mexico to the United States as a part of the migration stream of labor, both blue collar and white collar, following the opportunity wherever it takes
“My grandfather was a Bracero,” Ibarra said. “He and many of his family members and friends survived by working as imported farm laborers throughout the southwest in the 1950s. The
Bracero Program was a wartime labor importation program negotiated between the U.S. and Mexico that began in 1942 and ended in 1964 — nearly two decades after the end of WWII.
Under this program, nearly five million Mexican males were contracted and imported as “guest workers.” They were mostly used in the agriculture industry, including here in Wisconsin.
Braceros were barred from having any U.S. worker or labor rights. He was one of the millions of people that made up this cheap, exploitable, and deportable labor pool.”
The need for cheap, migrant labor didn’t end with the end of World Wat II.
“My parents are labor migrants,” Ibarra emphasized. “They followed the historic labor trails to El Norte that most of their family and hometown friends undertook and still follow. To this day,
they work on agricultural farms in California — the same type of corporate and family farms my grandfather worked. For six decades, they have worked as field hands preparing and
harvesting food for national and international consumption. Now in their mid-seventies, they cannot afford to retire because they belong to a racialized working but poor class. They will
continue to work until their bodies no longer allow them to do so. This makes me very sad.”
And when Ibarra was a child, he too was a part of the family’s economic unit.
“I am a labor migrant,” Ibarra said. “At four-years-old, I joined the family-work-unit. My earliest childhood memories are of working ‘en los files’. We worked in many of the same fields and
orchards that were owned by the same growers my grandfather had labored in. I worked those fields until my early twenties.”
Ibarra’s parents made it possible for him to attend school and Ibarra used the opportunity to earn his doctorate and followed the career opportunities to Madison — a different kind of labor
stream. And Ibarra’s position in life means that his children will have a different life.
“My children are no longer ‘labor’ migrants,” Ibarra emphasized. “Their stories will be different. But their lives — their legacy — are rooted in a political-economic context that has been
five-generations in the making.”
Through his own personal history, Ibarra made clear that people in the United States of Mexican and Latin descent are not immigrants and are an intricate part of the building of this nation.
They have earned the right many times over to be Americans.
“For many of us, labor migration is generational and a continuous process that spans over a century,” Ibarra said. “We are not new or recent. We are not foreign, alien, or criminal. We are
part of the working class that provides the labor and material used to fabricate the physical and imaginary tapestry that binds our America. In short, for generations, our heritage, our
herencia, has and continues to ‘Make America Great.’”
This migration stream is already changing the face of Madison, Wisconsin and the United States. As it is centered on strong economic and labor market forces, change is inevitable and
should be embraced and not fought.
“In Wisconsin, there are approximately 400,000 Latinos,” Ibarra said. “They are the largest and fastest growing group in Madison. They are the largest and fastest growing group in Dane
County. They are the largest and fastest growing group in Wisconsin and they are the largest and fastest growing group in the United States. Latinos now count for 58 million people and
they are transforming who we are as a country. This large and rapid growth is causing a demographic shift that is transforming the demographic profiles of many of our communities. This
change is rooted in three demographic trends: First, direct immigration from Latin American countries directly to the Wisconsin; Second, migration from other states to Wisconsin; and
lastly, and most important, the higher than average birthrate in the Latino community.”
And this demographic change will impact all sectors of our community.
“This demographic shift is also causing cultural and political changes in our state,” Ibarra said. “As communities continue to interact, our collective knowledge continues to form and
redefine our Wisconsin identity. Because the bulk of the Latino population is much younger than non-Latinos, they will gradually age into adulthood and become an increasing civic
presence; this means increased numbers of Latino voters, increased numbers of Latinos holding elected offices, and increased numbers of Latinos holding decision-making positions in
public service and private industry. And, undoubtedly, Latinos will continue to maintain a central and vital presence in our local and state economy, both as workers, consumers, and
Madison and Dane County are evolving, but that is something that has been happening since the birth of America. It isn’t something new.
“Like our Constitution as a living document; Our Americanness, our collective identity, is also alive and fluid,” Ibarra said. “It changes with time and reflects who we are as a nation, and
as a democracy: what we value and how we move toward achieving our ideal democratic state, in my estimation, this is the very essence of who we are as Wisconsinites. There are
many in our great state and country who feel that there are irreconcilable differences between Latinos and non-Latinos, but I disagree. For generations, our Hispanic heritage – however
we define it – has been woven into our collective national identity.
And so Ibarra urged the audience through a call to action to be the facilitators of that change.
“Continue to engage civically in our democracy,” Ibarra emphasized. “Organize and challenge inequality. As Frederick Douglass taught us, ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand. It
never did and it never will.’ Embrace diversity and equity, it is normal. Random and conscious acts of kindness go a long way. And when necessary, don’t be afraid to take up the good
fight — against all odds.”
This call to action is nothing new in the history of the United States.
“We are all American,” Ibarra emphasized to end his speech.
We are Wisconsin.