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Kansas Kaleidoscope - August/September 2002

(Volume 6, Number 1)

A fun magazine for kids!

Kansas Kaleidoscope, August/September 2002 The Mexican History of Kansas

Kansas & Mexico: 500 Years of Shared History

At two o'clock on the 4th of July in 1884, crowds of people lined the grand parade route in Dodge City, Kansas. They were eager to glimpse five men from Mexico. The parade began with town officials followed by the lively music of a cowboy band. Then a great cheer sounded when the Mexican bullfighters stepped into view.



Fiesta Mexicana, Topeka

For Parents and Teachers:
Mexican food is a national favorite, and Mexican musicians and actors enjoy tremendous popularity with young people. Mexican piñatas (some decorated with Barbie or Blue's Clues characters!) are a hit a children's birthday parties. The Spanish language appears on street signs, product labels and episodes of Sesame Street. The results today of nearly five centures of Mexican culture in Kansas are much more obvious to us than the history that preceded it!

In this issue, we trace the shared history of Mexico with Kansas before statehood. We also examine Mexican innovation and immigration in the state through the twentieth century. We hope after children read this issue, it will be more apparent that the presence of Mexicans in Kansas is not a phenomenon of recent history. Mexican culture in Kansas is older than the state itself.

When Kansas & Mexico were Neighbors

When Kansas became a state in 1861, the boundary lines were set as we know them today. But long before that time, Kansas shared a border with Mexico. In fact, part of today's Kansas was once in Mexico!

Mexican vaqueros--the first cowboys Kansas & Mexico -- Tied Together by Trails

For hundreds of year the Spanish government ruled Mexico and a territory called New Mexico. (Don't be confused. The territory of New Mexico was different from the state of today by the same name. Spanish New Mexico was that land on the frontier: north of Mexico.) Explore these stories:

  • The Trail to Santa Fe
  • Trail-Traveling Kids
  • Who Ruled?
  • Mexican Vaqueros--The First Cowboys
  • Vaqueros and the Great Cattle Drives
  • Corrido De Kansas
  • Inventors on Horseback
  • Workers on the Move
  • Moving with the Seasons
  • Earning to Live, Living to Earn
  • Working For a Better Life in Kansas
  • Kansas' Boxcar Children
  • Community Life
  • Digging Deep

Combining Cultures. . . Sharing Traditions

Children and their parents today continue to practice family customs from Mexico. Often these customs are learned from older family members. Sometimes they are then shared with a larger community. Many traditions center around religious or Mexican national holidays. Explore these stories:

  • Las Posadas
  • Quinceañeras
  • Cinco de Mayo


Fiestas (festivals) add Mexican fun and flavor to many Kansas communities. In the past, Kansas fiestas offered Mexican American laborers a day of joyous fun in their hard daily work routines. Today residents often hold fiestas to raise funds to build churches and schools. They block off neighborhood streets, set up stages for music and dancing, and serve delicious Mexican foods.

Mariachi Music

When Teresa Cuevas was a little girl of eight studying classical violin, she never dreamed she would one day perform with stars. Today this talented Topeka musician teaches and plays violin with Mariachi Estrella (es-STRAY-yah, meaning "star"). Teresa helped start this respected Kansas mariachi group more than 32 years ago.

In This Issue:

  • Kaleidoscope Challenge
  • For Parents and Teachers
  • History Lab
  • Visit History
  • Joke Break
  • Bee a Winner!