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Throughout the Ages
A Visual Document Resource

History | Capital District | Latino Communities

Image. Photo of First Communion class at St. Michael's Church, Amsterdam, 1956.
Spanish-speaking children are among those receiving their First Communion at St. Michael's Church in Amsterdam in 1956. Photo courtesy of Ana Velez.

Spanish-speaking people began immigrating to the Capital District area in the late 1800s. The 1880 Census showed that two Mexicans, five South Americans, and six Cubans were residing in the Capital District at the time. The numbers remained very low until 1940, when the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area census recorded 20 Mexican immigrants, a total of 63 people from the Cuba/West Indies combined area, and 112 others from Central or South America.

During World War II, the U.S. government negotiated a treaty with Mexico that allowed for migrant workers to work on farms and railroads in the U.S. during the wartime manpower shortage. These workers were called braceros, and were allowed to stay in the U.S. only until the war was over. In general, living conditions provided for them were very poor, and working conditions (especially on the railroads) were sometimes extremely hazardous. An Amsterdam Recorder news article from June 15th, 1945 told about eight Mexican railroad workers who were killed on the New York Central tracks near Amsterdam. The men had been part of a 65-member migrant crew that had been camping in the South Schenectady area. Although these workers were repatriated as soon as the war ended, in the years that followed Mexicans immigrated to New York in increasing numbers.

Vocabulary

Braceros: Mexican workers brought into the U.S. on a temporary basis to work on farms and railroads.
Hazardous: Dangerous, risky, unsafe.
Migrant: Person who moves from one place to another, usually for work.

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