Hispanic Heritage Month: September 15 to October 15

Sep 15, 2020 | Articles & Exhibits

The first Hispanic wave to arrive in Aurora was made up of Mexican immigrants, who first came north between 1910 and 1920, fleeing the Mexican Revolution. In the 1920s, U.S. restrictions on immigration from overseas spurred greater immigration from Mexico.

Many of Aurora’s early Mexican immigrants worked for the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railroad (CB & Q). Many of these were employed at the West Eola Reclamation Plant (Eola Scrap Yard). About 1923, the railroad agreed to provide housing near the plant in the form of old railroad boxcars which had been taken off their wheel carriages.

The Eola Boxcar Camp (known as “El Camp” to residents) became a thriving community of families in 20 cars. It even featured its own church, which the residents built themselves. With the Great Depression of the 1930s, the railroad work force was greatly reduced, and the boxcar camp was dismantled in 1934.

During the Depression of the 1930s, many of Aurora’s Mexican community (and those throughout the U.S.) moved back to Mexico, or were forcibly “repatriated.” But some of the boxcar residents moved into town and got jobs in factories, notably Austin-Western. They built homes and lives here and organized their community around churches such as St. Joseph’s Catholic and St. Therese Catholic. Many of their descendants still live here.

Additional waves of Mexican immigrants came to Aurora after World War II, and have continued to arrive up to the present, contributing to the richness, diversity, and prosperity of our community.

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