Washington Early Economic Influence
The migration of Latin Americans to Washington began with economic development in the state during the 1800s stemming from the fur trade and mining. The French, British, and Americans dominated the Washington fur trade with the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest; Latin Americans did not play such an important role. However, they were instrumental in creating the infrastructure of the transportation system for the mining industry that burgeoned in Washington in the late nineteenth century. This was accomplished through Mexican mule packing.
Demand for the Mexican mule packing system first grew large in California during the mid-eighteenth century as a result of California’s mining economy. In the 1850s, the discovery of gold in British Columbia and Idaho prompted many prospectors to travel through Washington to purchase supplies and provisions. At this time, the limitation of transportation in Washington’s central region contributed to the lack of economic development in the central part of the state. However, a large Mexican population began to settle in Walla Walla in order to
support the state’s growing mining industry by implementing and developing the region’s first dependable commercial transportation system with mules. Thus, Mexican mule packers were in high demand from the 1850s up until the late 1870s, when the railroads became the most common method of transporting goods in Washington State.