The Latino Americans: 500 Years of History initiative supports cultural heritage projects exploring Latino in Dodge City, Emporia, Newton, and Overland Park. Here, Cathy Reeves of the Dodge City Public Library reflects on the initiatives impact in Dodge City.
The Dodge City area is rich in Latino history from the influence of Coronado and the conquistadores to the establishment of the Mexican Village.
In the early 1900s the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway constructed housing for their Mexican employees in the railroad yard near the depot. Those who came north from Mexico included men either single or some who were working to make money to send for their families. Some brought their families with them. This settlement known as the Mexican Village lasted for almost 50 years
Most of the first homes in the Village were constructed of railroad ties and discarded lumber. In 1913 Santa Fe constructed a new roundhouse and the village location was relocated to a new site. The homes were devoid of paint with wooden or dirt floors and tar paper on the roofs. The only furniture was a few chairs and beds. There was no indoor plumbing and water was carried from two hydrants. Families planted gardens and raised chickens and made rent or lease payments to the railroad.
The Village was a community in itself complete with its own grocery store, a dance hall, pool hall, and later a church and school. Though there was no formal government, there were members of the community who were looked upon as leaders. The men worked on the railroad then socialized in the Village meeting place. The women tended to the domestic chores and cared for their family. When the children were old enough they attended school. In 1955 the village was dismantled and many families moved to the east side of Dodge City.
One noted resident who grew up in the Village was Louie Sanchez. He worked for the railroad and then the power company. Louie was not only involved with activities in the Village but also with the city. He served as a city commissioner for four years and was Dodge City’s mayor from April 1984 to April 1985.
Today, nothing is left of the Village. An information board by the depot tells of the history of the Village and more information is being planned for a display inside the depot. Several publications tell about the history and some of the residents still reside in Dodge City. On April 21 the library will host a program presented by those who grew up in the Village. This is one way we can help inform everyone about the influence the Village had on Dodge City.
The Latino Americans: 500 Years of History initiative is supported by a grant KHC received from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association.