Mexico to Appalachia: The Context for Immigration and the Globalization of Labor in North Carolina


Migration from Mexico to Appalachia has significantly affected the lifestyles and economies of both regions. According to the 2000 census, the predominantly Mexican Latino population of North Carolina increased by 394%, growing to 378,863--4.7% of the state’s population-- since 1990. This increase represents the largest of any state in the southeast, and doesn’t take into account underreporting, which is estimated to be as high as 50%.

This Pathfinder examines the demographic and socio-political trends surrounding Mexican immigration to Appalachia, focusing on how the “classic southern calculus” of black and white has been thrown into flux (Williams 2002: 394) . In order to understand the immigration phenomenon, conditions in the home country must be examined, so this Pathfinder also includes material analyzing the “development” of Mexico under the neo-liberal policy regime that began there in 1982.

Introductory Text: 

Smith, Barbara Ellen. The New Latino South: An Introduction . A product of the joint project “Race and Nation: Building New Communities in the South,” by the Center for Research on Women at The University of Memphis, the Highlander Research and Education Center , and the Southern Regional Council. November 2001. Link to PDF: (7 November 2004)

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 

Highly Relevant:

  • Alien Labor, Mexican Employment Southern States
  • Appalachian Region Economic conditions
  • Appalachian Region Economic conditions Case studies
  • Appalachian Region Emigration and Immigration History
  • Appalachian Region Ethnic relations
  • Children of migrant laborers
  • Migrant labor Appalachian Region
  • Migrant agricultural laborers
  • Migrant labor Case studies
  • Women migrant labor
  • Hispanic Americans Economic conditions
  • Hispanic Americans Employment Southern States
  • Hispanic Americans Health And Hygiene North Carolina Statistics
  • Hispanic Americans North Carolina Statistics
  • Migrant Agricultural Laborers North Carolina

Also Relevant:

  • Agricultural Laborers, Foreign
  • Alien Labor, Latin American United States
  • Alien Labor, Mexican
  • Alien Labor, Mexican United States
  • Alien Labor Mexican United States History
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Hispanic Americans Census 1990
  • Hispanic Americans Census 2000
  • Immigrants United States
  • Immigrants United States Statistics
  • Mexican Americans Cultural Assimilation
  • Migrant Labor
  • Migrant Labor Certification United States
  • Migrant Labor Education United States
  • Appalachian Region Rural conditions
  • Appalachian Region Social conditions
  • Appalachian Region Social life and customs.
  • Appalachian Region Social conditions Statistics
  • Appalachian Region, Southern Race relations
  • Appalachian Region, Southern Rural conditions.
  • Appalachians (People) Migrations.
  • Agricultural laborers
  • Agricultural workers
  • Farm labor
  • Farm laborers
  • Farmworkers
  • Peasantry
  • Farm Bill 2002 Forum (use this subject heading to research current U.S. federal agriculture policy, specifically subsidies, in terms of its role in destroying the Mexican national agricultural economy)
Clipping Files Subject Headings – W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 
  • Migrant Labor
  • Migration
  • Christmas Trees
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 
  • E 184.A1 A45 – E 184.A1-Z83 (Construction of race and ethnicity in America )
  • F 1221.N3L63 – F 1392.A5 H37 ( Mexico )
  • HB 1951.P655 – HB 2161.W37 (Migration)
  • HC 107.A12 K85 – HC 107.A133 P68 (Economy of the American South)
  • HD 1289.M6T7 – HD 1339.J3 B59 (Agrarian reform)
  • HD 1415.A32 – HD 1542.P37 (Peasants and farm labor)
  • HD 75.C68 – HD 75.N67 (Economic development theory)
  • HN 253.5 J6 – HN 371.A27 ( Latin America general social change/conflict)
  • HN 960.S63 – HN 981.V5H65 (Rural development and globalization)
  • HQ 1438.A21 – HQ 1438.W45 (Women in the American South)
  • JL 1218.98 – JL 1298.8 B46 (Mexico/Democracy in Mexico )
  • JV 6475.A433-JV6798.M6 (Immigration in the Americas )

Velazquez, Loida. “Finding a Voice: Latinas in the South,” in Neither Separate Nor Equal: Women, Race, and Class in the South , ed. Barbara Ellen Smith. Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 1999. ASU APP COLL HQ1438.S63 N45 1999

Williams, John Alexander. Appalachia : A History. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002. see pp. 392-394. ASU APP COLL STACK F106 .W68 2002

Gaventa John, Barbara Ellen Smith, and Alex Willingham. “Toward a New Debate: Development, Democracy, and Dignity,” in Communities in Economic Crisis: Appalachia and the South . Eds Gaventa, Smith, and Willingham. Philedelphia: Temple University Press, 1990. ASU APP COLL STACK HC107.A127 C65 1990

Rothrock, Kent, Miles Tager, and David Whitlock. Forces of Change: Watauga County , North Carolina . Produced by Highland Mapping, LLC, for the MountainKeepers, with funding from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. 22 July 2003. Available via the MountainKeepers, PO Box 21 DTS Boone, NC 28607. (Currently lost from ASU library, was located at: ASU APP COLL STACK HD211.N8 F6 2003)

Martinez, Ruben. Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail. NY: Picador Press (an imprint of St. Martin ’s Press), 2001. WCU GENERAL E184.M5 M388 2001. (This book is not available in the ASU library but is easily ordered via ABC)

Escobar, Arturo. Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World . Princeton , NJ : Princeton University Press, 1995. ASU MAIN STACKS HD75 .E73 1995

Thompson, Charles D. and Melinda F. Wiggins, eds. The Human Cost of Food: Farmworkers’ Lives, Labor, and Advocacy . Austin : University of Texas Press, 2002. See especially Chap. 5 “Farmworker Exceptionalism Under the Law: How the Legal System Contributes to Farmworker Poverty and Powerlessness,” by Greg Schell. ASU MAIN STACKS HD1527.S85 H86 2002

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

Cashmore, Ellis. Encyclopedia of Race and Ethnic Studies . New York : Routledge, 2004 . See “Latinos” pp. 239-243, by John A. Garcia (includes further reading). ASU REFERENCE GN 495.6.C37 2004

Kahn, Ada P . The Encyclopedia of Work-Related Illnesses, Injuries, and Health Issues . New York , N.Y. : Facts on File, 2004. See “Migrant work,” pp. 212-213, by Ada Kahn; please note not all migrant workers are impoverished Latino farm workers. ASU REFERENCE RC963.A3 K348 2004

Wilson, Charles Reagan & William Ferris, coeditors. Encyclopedia of Southern Culture . Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989. See “Urbanization” pp. 1444 and 1446, by Carl Abbott (he notes that Hispanics disrupt traditional black-white color balance in the South); “ Houston ” p.1458, by Barry Kaplan; and “ Miami ” p.1461, by Raymond Mohl. Useful only in comparison, as Hispanics exist only in the Southwest or Florida in this text. For comparison, see also “Migrant Workers” pp. 1401-1403 by Donald Grubbs, about the experiences of white ethnic Appalachians who migrated for work throughout the 20 th century. Note similiarities to Latino migrant workers’ experiences in Appalachia in terms of substandard housing and exploitation. ASU APP COLL OVSZ F209 .E53 1989


Pfelger, Randal. Latinos in the Southern Appalachians: A Bibliography and Pathfinder. 10 December 2002. This bibliography is especially useful for documenting the existence of Latino workers in the South and noting community reaction to recent migrants, as it includes an exhaustive index of recent (to 2002), predominately local, newspaper articles. Pathfinder available online at: Bibliography available in “Bibliography” notebooks (uncatalogued), ASU APP COLL STACKS

John, Patricia La Caille. Population Migration in Rural America : January 1980-January 1993. Rural America Quick Bibliography Series: QB 93-35 Updates QB 91-40 (includes 137 citations in English from AGRICOLA), project of the Rural Information Center . Beltsville , Md. : The National Agricultural Library [computer file] [199-]. Available online via Belk Library Catalog, title search “National Agriculture Library,” go to <view web version>. Go to <search our website> and enter “Population Migration in Rural America.”

Abstracts and Indices: 


Anthropological Literature [see “Mexico Migrant”; these articles are highly relevant]

Ethnic News Watch

ERIC Educational Resource Information Center

Info Latinoamerica

PsycINFO [indexes social science literature]

Sociological Abstracts [see “Migrant” and “ Appalachia ”; “Migrant” and “Latino”]

LexisNexis Academic Universe [search terms same as above]


Smith, Geri, and Cristina Lindblad. “ Mexico : Was NAFTA Worth It?” Business Week . December 22, 2003, Number 3863; Pg. 34. 3892 words. [available via Belk Library online connection to Lexis-Nexis]

Turner, John, Erin Molenda, and Bernie Westendorff. “Migrants in Appalachia.”

Journal of Appalachian Studies 1996, 2, 1, spring, 123-130. Morgantown , WV : Regional Research Institute, West Virginia University for the Appalachian Studies Association . ASU APP COLL STACK F106 .J74

Appalachian Journal. v.1- 1972-. Quarterly, 1974 (semiannual, 1972). Boone , N.C. : Appalachian State University . ASU APP COLL STACK F216.2 .A66

Journal of Appalachian Studies 1995-. Semiannual. Morgantown , WV : Regional Research Institute, West Virginia University for the Appalachian Studies Association. ASU APP COLL STACK F106 .J74

Latin American Research Review . v.1- 1965-. Three issues per year. University of Texas , Austin : The Latin American Research Review. Electronic resource via Belk Library catalog, JSTOR. Bound issues located in ASU PERIODICALS

NACLA : Report on the Americas . July/Aug. 1993-. Bimonthly. New York , NY : North American Congress on Latin America , (an independent non-profit organization) [electronic resource via Belk Library catalog, 1993-]

Population Bulletin 1977-, frequency varies. Nov. 1989-, Quarterly. P ublication of the Population Reference Bureau. (note “Immigration: Shaping and Reshaping America ” by Philip Martin and Elizabeth Midgley Population Vol. 58, No. 2 June 2003) Current issues on periodical shelves ASU PERIODICALS

Gender and Society . . v.1- 1987-. Bimonthly. University of Texas , Austin : Sociologists for Women in Society. Electronic resource, via Belk Library catalog, JSTOR. Bound issues also located in ASU PERIODICALS

Journal of Economic Geography . Began in mid 1990s, frequency unclear. Oxford , UK : Oxford University Press assisted by Stanford University Libraries’ HighWire Press. Electronic resource only via Belk Library catalog, JSTOR

Critique of Anthropology . Quarterly, Vol. 1, no. 1-. Semiannual, 1974-. London : Sage Publishers. Marxist anthropology journal. Electronic resource via Belk Library catalog, JSTOR. Also in ASU PERIODICALS

Websites: . Non-profit organization based in Raleigh, promotes advocacy and policy dedicated to strengthening the Latino community. The Highlander Research and Education Center, a popular education and research organization with a recent focus on Latino immigration. North Carolina Society of Hispanic Professionals. A networking and encouragement program for professionals and aspiring studen , promotes education among Hispanic youth. The Mission of the Latin American Coalition is to empower the Latino community by providing enhanced information and education initiative that will promote full Hispanic participation in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Region. Centro: La Comunidad, Burlington-based Latino community resource center. Interesting series of articles looking at the impact of the growing Latino presence in Randolph County North Carolina.

Audio and Video Sources: 

Help Wanted: Farm Workers in N.C. Shot and directed by Burning Tree Productions (N.C. natives), distributed by Working Films, 602 South Fifth Avenue, Wilmington , N.C. 28401/ The best documentary on Latino farmworkers in N.C., focusing on exploitive working conditions and abuse of the H2-A guestworker program. Available from the distributor (on ASU campus, also available from Dr. Jeff Boyer)

Nuestra Comunidad: Latinos in North Carolina . Produced and directed by Joanne Hershfield and Penny Simpson. NC: New South Productions, 2001. ASU MOVIES VC 11625

Other Sources: 

United States. Dept. of Agriculture . A Time to Choose : Summary Report on the Structure of Agriculture. Washington , D.C. : U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 1981. See pp. 133-137, includes selected references (relevant for change over time comparison between Latino farm workers in 1970s). ASU APP COLL STACK S441.U548

United States Congress. House Committee on Government Operations. Employment, Housing, and Aviation Subcommittee . Mexican Agriculture Policies: An Immigration Generator? Hearing before the Employment, Housing, and Aviation Subcommittee of the Committee on Government Operations, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, first session, October 28, 1993. Washington : U.S. G.P.O. ASU MICROFORM US Y 4.G 74/7:M 57

Pollard, Kelvin M. A “New Diversity”: Race and Ethnicity in the Appalachia Region. September 2004. Report by the Population Reference Bureau for the Appalachian Regional Commission, part of series Demographic and Socioeconomic Change in Appalachia . Link to PDF (fifth down on web page): (7 November 2004)

Fanjul, Gonzalo, and Arabella Fraser. (27 August 2003) Oxfam Briefing Paper 50: Dumping Without Borders: How US Agricultural Policies are Destroying the Livelihoods of Mexican Corn Farmers. Online posting, <English>, <Policy and analysis>, <Policy papers>, <Dumping…> links to PDF (to find, search for any of the terms) (7 November 2004)

NC Latino Health, 2003 . Durham , NC : North Carolina Institute of Medicine , February 2003. A Report from the Latino Health Task Force, North Carolina Institute of Medicine, in collaboration with El Pueblo, Inc. Useful for demographic data and interpretation. (16 November 2004)

Compiled by: 

Compiler: Alice Brooke Wilson, 2 December 2004