Kansas City has the most established Latino population in Missouri, according to the 2000 census, with a population of 92, 910.4 Kansas City became an important transportation, commercial, and industrial center. The first Mexican settlement in Kansas City dates back to 1905, when a barrio developed in the flood-prone
Argentine area. This settlement was made up mostly of boxcars, provided by the Santa Fe Railroad, and of segregated boarding houses. Two hundred of the 300 Mexicans living in Argentine worked for the railroad, and of this amount 12 percent were women and 12 percent were children.5
By the 1920 census, Kansas City had become an important destination for Mexican laborers seeking work in the Midwest. The settlement process of Mexican workers was interrupted at two major points: during the Great Depression (1929-1939), when U.S. citizens falsely argued that Mexicans were taking away jobs, and during World War II, when Mexicans were deported as threats to U.S. national security. Postwar official policies uprooted many Mexican families, including children born in the United States. However, many resisted, and they were aided by employers in several instances. Three to four generations later, the descendants of these settlers now form the core of Kansas City’s Mexican American community. The importance of Kansas City to Missouri’s Latino population was implicitly recognized by the move of the Mexican consulate’s office to Kansas City in August 2002. In the last decade Kansas City’s metropolitan area has experienced the greatest growth in the state in the number of Latinos (55,243).
Kansas City has benefited from Latino-led nonprofit groups working to rehabilitate run-down homes and to reinvest in new construction in the inner city. The Latino population has expanded beyond the boundaries of the old barrio, and Latinos are now present everywhere in the Kansas City metro area. Throughout Kansas City suburbs the Latino population grew by 33 percent, reflecting a national trend of Latinos moving out of segregated inner-city neighborhoods as their economic fortunes improve. The northeast side, formerly predominantly Italian American, is increasingly becoming Latino; in fact, Latinos now represent approximately 30 percent of the population in that area.