Mexican community took action. One of the earliest fiestas they celebrated in 1936 was organized because, as the poster claimed, Mexicans were far from the homeland, and los mexicanos sentimos la ineludible obligacion de rememorar sus fechas gloriosas (we, Mexicans, feel an inescapable obligation to remember and celebrate our glorious days). The celebration, sponsored by the Comite Patriotico Mexicano de Billings, demonstrates Mexicans’ attempt to connect with their homeland from faraway. This particular poster also celebrates the freedom gained from the Spaniards in 1810. It is possible that Mexicans, feeling the arms of colonization around their lives, wanted to remember that they gained independence once, and that they could gain it again in the United States. Today the Mexican community is largely self-segregated on the south side of Billings. City Commissioner Jim Ronquillo works against contemporary discrimination and against and the ill-placed detention and drug rehabilitation centers placed in the south side neighborhood.
As of 2005, Billings had an estimated population of 4,577 Latinos, out of an estimated total population of 92,844.5 Many are active in the community, such as Jim Ronquillo and Judge Pedro Hernandez. Their families arrived to work as betabeleros, beginning the cyclical migration from Texas and/or Colorado to Montana, and back to Texas and/or Colorado. Strong traditions such as the summer fiestas remind the group of their Mexican heritage. The center for community activism and shared traditions is Guadalupe Church, built in 1953 specifically in recognition of the growing number of Spanish-speaking families in south Billings. The church known through Billings for its fiestas, Spanish dinners, and youth programs nurtures the Spanish language and the cultural and religious traditions of the Latino community.
Butte also has a strong Latino community, but because of a different industry. If Billings was known as the sugar city, Butte was known as the copper king, home to the richest hill on Earth. Anaconda Copper Mining Company, which virtually controlled the economy of Montana during its heyday in the 1890s, was the leader in copper production in the United States, as it produced 41 percent of the total U.S. copper production. Anaconda Mining maintained close ties with Chile, more specifically to Chuquicamata, as it recruited workers there and controlled the community politically and economically for roughly 50 years (from the 1920s to the 1970s). Anaconda employed a diverse pool of laborers, ranging from the Chinese to the Irish. Mexican miners, especially from Sonora and New Mexico, were also employed. There remains today in Butte a small community of Latinos, an estimated 927, mostly Mexicans, whose parents first arrived to mine.6
The Catholic Church has played an instrumental role in both Billings and Butte. For instance, Billings’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church is the site of many traditional Latino fiestas. In Butte, the St. Joseph Church is a prime site of gathering, and Father Baron, of that church, was a key organizer of the Viva la Raza Center, which holds cultural events.