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Muscatine Migrant Committee



The Muscatine Migrant Committee (MMC) was established in 1958 to assist the approximately 1,000 agricultural laborers and their families who worked seasonally in the fields around Muscatine. Most of the migrant workers were U.S. citizens from Texas who cultivated tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons on local farms during the summer months and returned to Texas at the end of the growing season. University of Iowa (then the State University of Iowa) student Skip Andrews initiated the formation of a migrant ministry when he brought the needs of Muscatine migrant workers to the attention of the Iowa Council of Churches in 1957. Staffed by four college students, the migrant ministry's "Harvester Team" operated a day care center, educational programs for children, and a Spanish-language radio broadcast service. During the late 1960s, the MMC increasingly turned its attention to the root causes of poverty. Bilingual nurses and activist nuns, Sister Irene Munoz and Sister Molly Munoz, provided heatlh care to migrant workers, documented living conditions in many Iowa migrant camps and worked to pass and enforce protective legislation for Iowa migrant workers and their children. In 1970, Juan Cadena became the first Latino to head the Muscatine Migrant Committee. Raised in Saginaw, Michigan, the son of Tejano migrant workers, Cadena was active in the Brown Berets and the national grape boycott campaign before moving to Iowa with his wife, Marta Cadena, and their children. Under the leadership of the Cadenas, the Muscatine Migrant Committee expanded its services to encompass a dental clinic, health clinic, and a greater focus on bilingual education. Cadena served on the task force appointed by Governor Robert Ray that was instrumental in the creation of the Spanish Speaking Peoples Commission in 1976, the forerunner of the Iowa Commission on Latino Affairs.

Author: Janet Weaver

Janet Weaver, "From Barrio to Boicoteo: The Emergence of Mexican American Activism in Davenport, 1917-1970," Annals of Iowa, Vol. 68 No. 3 (Summer 2009): 215-154.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Mary Terronez papers

Identifier: IWA0497

Davenport area community activist and leader in its Mexican American community.

Dates: 1936-2018

Muscatine Migrant Committee records

Identifier: IWA0745

Migrant agency that advocated for agricultural laborers employed temporarily on eastern Iowa farms.

Dates: 1962-2005

Additional filters:

Administrative records 1
Boycotts 1
Child health services 1
Children of migrant laborers 1
Civil rights 1