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Migration is Beautiful highlights the contributions Latinas and Latinos have made to Iowa history. Migration is central to understanding and interpreting the past, shaped first by Native Americans, and later by immigrants from around the world. 

In its title and imagery Migration is Beautiful echoes the spirit and work of American artist Favianna Rodriguez. In her art, the monarch butterfly symbolizes migration as a natural occurrence of central importance to the human experience through time and space. Each year, the monarch butterfly begins its journey in the Michoacán region of central Mexico, a key point of departure for many early twentieth-century Mexican immigrants to Iowa and the Midwest. Like the monarch butterfly, their migration al norte was often circular and multi-generational. Migration is Beautiful builds on the pioneering work of Rusty Barceló, Grace Nuñez, and Teresa García in the 1990s when they researched, wrote, and conducted oral histories about the early history of Mexicans in Iowa. 

Migration is Beautiful developed from the Mujeres Latinas Project, which started in 2005 at the Iowa Women’s Archives to collect and preserve primary source materials about the history of Latinas and their families in Iowa. Between 2005 and 2008 University of Iowa graduate students, community members, librarians, and archivists conducted over a hundred oral history interviews with Iowa Latinas. Interviewers included UI graduate students Teresa García and Iskra Núñez, UI librarian Rachel Garza Carreón, and educational liaison Georgina Buendía-Cruz. In addition to donating their personal narratives, many Latino families generously donated letters, memoirs, and photographs. By combining these materials with census data and other historical sources, we can begin to fill the gaps in the historical record. A new understanding emerges, one that integrates the contributions of Latinas and their families into a more variegated narrative of Iowa history.


Thank you to Favianna Rodriguez for granting permission to use her “Migration is Beautiful” artwork and poster for the title and logo of this website. We especially acknowledge the Iowa councils of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the many families who generously donated the interviews and historical documents that bring Iowa Latino history to light.

Migration is Beautiful was created by Janet Weaver, Assistant Curator of the Iowa Women’s Archives at the University of Iowa Libraries, with funding from a Creth technology development grant and assistance from UI students Catherine Babikian, Alyse Burnside, Katie Gandhi, Mariana Ramirez, and Preservation Projects Librarian Vitalina Nova.

The website would not have been possible without extensive support and expertise from the staff at the Digital Scholarship & Publishing Studio. UI GIS Librarian Robert Shepard created the migration map with assistance from Ethan DeGross (Researcher/Developer). The website was designed by Five Twelve Creative and produced by Digital Humanities Research and Instruction Librarian Hannah Scates Kettler.