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Kansas City’s Role in US-Mexico Relations a Result of 200-Year-Old Mexican Community

Posted By IRC, Monday, May 15, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A healthy diplomatic relationship between the United States and Mexico is crucial for the prosperity of both nations. The various successes of the North American Free Trade Agreement have made Mexico the United States’ third largest trading partner, and the United States Mexico’s largest trading partner, accounting for over 80% of Mexico’s total global trade. Mexican-Americans make up over 11% of the United States 320 million individuals. Suffice it to say, it is imperative that the new presidential administration does everything it can to maintain the special relationship. 


Kansas City has been a center of interest for the Mexican government since the days of the Santa Fe Trail. The first Mexicans to arrive in the area were traders traveling along the trail coming to Independence in the 1820’s and 1830’s. Around the turn of the 20th century, migrant workers from all over Mexico relocated to Kansas City to work for several railroads, including the Chicago–Rock Island and Santa Fe railroads.


Continuing through both World Wars, more Mexican immigrants came to supply the labor needs in the meatpacking and railroad industries. During World War I, when Eastern Europeans were passed over for labor needs, factories and rail yards recruited Mexican labor. In 1942, the United States approved the Bracero Program to allow Mexican laborers to work in the US, and as a result, more Mexicans came to the Kansas City area in search of work.


Most immigrants settled in the Armourdale and Argentine neighborhoods in Kansas City, Kansas, and Westside neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri. Each neighborhood has a number of restaurants serving authentic Mexican cuisine. Cultural institutions, such as the Mattie Rhodes, El Centro, and the Guadalupe Centers, provide various programming that includes art galleries, workshops, and festivals for holidays.



The prosperity of Kansas City has come not only from the cultural enrichment of Mexican immigration, but also from the economic ties between Kansas City and Mexico. Kansas City Southern, whose headquarters are located in Quality Hill, is the smallest of the remaining major North American railways yet the only one to own track in both Mexico and the United States. The railroad and its subsidiaries provide arteries for the flow of trade between the two countries, running a total of $534 billion in 2014.

Recognizing their emigrants finding cultural and economic prosperity in a city greatly contributing to bilateral trade with its northern neighbor, the Mexican government established the only non-honorary foreign diplomatic missions in Kansas City. The Mexican Consulate in Kansas City reflect Mexico’s belief in the region to be economically and culturally important in the overall prosperity of the relationship between it and the United States.


The diplomatic relationship between the two countries maintains their relative ranking of major global actors in terms of trade. On January 25, 2017, President Donald Trump signed a Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements executive order, directing the Department of Homeland Security to commence securing the US-Mexico border by constructing a physical wall. Disputes between the two governments over who would fund building the wall has caused the Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto to cancel a meeting with Trump, leading to diplomatic stagnation. The Republican-controlled executive and legislative branches must be wary of a downturn in its working relationship with another democratic government, or they risk losing great sums of trade.


Whatever the diplomatic situation is between Mexico City and Washington, D.C., Kansas City will continue to provide a venue for Mexican culture to flourish. El Camino Real in Kansas City, Kansas, will keep serving tacos al pastor, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will continue to host the yearly Fiesta Kansas City in Crown Center. 2017 will be another year of growth and enrichment in the Mexican community.


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Peter Fortunato is a freshman at the University of Miami Ohio, pursuing a bachelor's degree in both International Studies and Statistics, while minoring in Spanish.

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