Recent Mexican Migration
Emerging patterns of rapid and massive migration reflect a new trend in Mexican migration to America’s heartland beginning in the early 1990s. Recent research on Mexicans in Oklahoma suggests a direct migration from the north central Mexican states of Zacatecas and Durango, as well as considerable migration from Guerrero and other south central states. In a revealing series printed in the newspaper Tulsa World, the story begins with the flight trajectory of three brothers who made their way to Tulsa through Texas in the 1950s, found work, and later recruited friends and family from their home state to join them in the growing construction and landscaping industry, where many have specialized in construction-related and service work. The Zacatecan pioneers created a migratory circuit that is still in operation today. Through word of mouth, a chain of migration ensued that had began with male members who were later joined by family members. With time, expanding Latino businesses such as grocery stores, bakeries, hair salons, wire transfer services, bus lines, and other small businesses began catering to the Zacatecan community and other Mexican and Central American groups, solidifying their settlement. Priced very reasonably, various bus lines, including Zavala Bus Service, offer direct routes from cities in Oklahoma to Zacatecas, Mexico. Between 1997 and 2002, Latino-owned businesses in Tulsa County alone rose by over 41 percent, accounting for over 1,000 new businesses.
Between 1997 and 2002, Latinos established U.S. businesses at three times the national average. A popular radio station in Tulsa, Que Buena, is run by a Zacatecan migrant, further evidencing this connection to that Mexican state. There are over six Spanish-language newspapers in Oklahoma, including Hispano de Tulsa, La Guta, La. Semana del Sur, and El Nacional. The expanding Spanish-language media in Oklahoma also informs migrants of news regarding legalization and social and political events in the state, which shows how a series of networking strategies help newcomers adjust to life in their new destinations.
In addition to the informal employment networks mentioned above, Mexican labor recruitment is also coordinated through official employment streams.
Agricultural guest worker visas facilitate the pulling of Mexican labor to the United States. In Guymon and elsewhere, the expanding meatpacking industries rely heavily on Mexican and other Latino low-wage labor. Much of this labor supply is recruited directly from Mexico as well as through secondary migrations from California, Texas, and other states. The National Steak and Poultry meat packaging plant in Owasso recruited hundreds of Mexican workers from California in the late 1990s. After the plant downsized, many families stayed, making western Oklahoma home. Since the mid-1990s Tulsa and other parts of Oklahoma have experienced a construction boom, especially for residential housing, highways, and other infrastructure. Thousands of Mexican workers and their families made their way to the area as a result. Restaurants, hotels, factories, and large wholesale nurseries throughout the state also rely on Latino labor.