Transnational placemaking in small-town America
Latino immigrants are transforming the sociocultural landscapes of small Midwestern towns, creating new opportunities and challenges for planning practice. More than creating new businesses and changing neighborhood demographics, Latino immigrants are connecting what were once isolated communities to transnational economies. In turn, community and business leaders are challenged to address issues of national scope, such as immigration laws. This chapter addresses some of these conflicts, challenges, and changes; more specifically, it looks at the impacts of Latino immigrants on placemaking in small towns in the Midwest and how planners can directly encourage the type of placemaking that balances the interests of both new and long-time community stakeholders. The chapter analyzes three small Iowa towns (Perry, Postville, and Marshalltown) that have each experienced a major influx of Latino immigrants within the past ten years. The towns are transforming from homogenous non-Latino white communities toward new dynamic, multicultural places. These rapid changes are driven by Latino immigration due to the restructuring of the meatpacking industry. Small-business immigrant Latino entrepreneurs are opening stores and businesses, providing new economic development opportunities sorely needed in these small towns whose populations and economies had been shrinking. Latino immigrants are providing the labor, commercial capital investment/markets, and overall population growth needed to sustain such communities. The transnational connections immigrants maintain back to their countries of origin provide bidirectional access to economic resources shaping placemaking efforts in both spaces, as well as to transcultural
resources that are helping immigrants establish a sense of place in their new communities.