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The Santa Fe shops employed numerous immigrant workers of Mexican descent and provided railroad box cars for many of these workers. This substandard and temporary housing reflected many of the attitudes of area residents towards laborers of Mexican descent. As has been the case with all movements of newcomers to the United States, this wave of immigrants was fueled by conditions in the home country and many of the more established residents resented the newcomers. Although people of Mexican descent had long lived and worked in this area and were represented in significant numbers in cattle drives (these cowboys were known as vaqueros) or as wagoners on the Santa Fe trail, laborers of Mexican descent had a difficult tie acquiring permanent housing. While most of the laborers left the area, others found homes and created communities that led to the growth of the Mexican American communities of Topeka and other areas of Kansas.


The number of Mexican laborers grew to 13,770 by 1920. Most of these immigrants were hired to work from May to October and the majority then returned to their homes and families in Mexico during offseason as national borders were fluid. However, many jobs at the Santa Fe shops provided year-round job opportunities which led to the growth of Mexican American communities. Furthermore, during the First World War, these employees were fundamental to fill the labor shortage while many other people of Mexican descent joined in the military. 

"We arrived on the first day
And on the second began to work. With our picks in our hands 
We set out tramping. 

Some unloaded rails
And others unload ties,
And others of my companions Threw out thousands of curses.

Those who knew the work 
Went repairing jacks 
With sledge hammers and shovels, Throwing earth up the track"

This corrido titled "El Enganchado" from Desert Immigrants: The Mexicans of El Paso 1880-1920 by Mario Garcia  illustrates the daily routine of many Mexican immigrants who migrated to Topeka during the early 1900’s to work in the in the Santa Fe shops (shops=factories). 


Spanish Translation/Traducción en Español

“Llegamos el primer día 
Y el segundo empezamos a trabajar. Con nuestras palas en la mano
Nos fuimos a pisar fuerte 

Algunos descargaron las vías
Y otros descargan amarres 
Y otros de mis compañeros Gritaban varias maldiciones 

Aquellos que conocían el trabajo. 
Fueron reparando los gatos 
Con los mazos y palas, Tirando tierra sobre las vías

Este corrido llamado “El Enganchado” de inmigrantes del desierto: Los Mexicanos de El Paso 1880-1920 por Mario García muestra la rutina diaria de muchos mexicanos inmigrantes quienes migraron a Topeka durante los primeros años del siglo veinte para trabajar en las factorías de Santa Fe.