A central aspect of Mexican culture is the idea of dual or multi-nationality. Even before the Mexican revolution, many Mexicans owned land and businesses in both Mexico and the US. The vast majority of Mexicans who crossed into America belonged to one of these two groups: those who were exiles from Mexico because they were active participants in the revolution against President Diaz, thereby becoming “temporary residents” rather than naturalized American citizens, and those who came for economic reasons during a time when there was great demand for unskilled labor among American industrialists building railroads.
The latter group knew that they would eventually be forced to repatriate back to their homeland once there was no longer a need for their cheap labor. In the meantime, they set up shop in a sleepy little town outside of Chicago called Elgin (Martinez-Cardoso & Geronimus, 2021). It is important to note that not all “temporary residents” were exiles; many Mexican men headed to America with the expectation that they would eventually return home. For these men and their families, life in America was more like being an immigrant than being a temporary resident.